Local News

Schoolyard Injury Leads To Tug-Of War Over Liability

Posted November 7, 2003

— If a child is injured during a school activity, who should pay? A Wake County mother was surprised by the answers she received after her child was seriously hurt in a game of tug-of-war.

Linda Le cracked a vertebrae during the schoolyard contest on May 30. It was part of "Ligon Fest" on the last day of classes at Ligon Middle School.

"We were playing tug-of-war, we already lost and the other team started pulling," student Linda Le said.

"So everybody on her side fell forward and they fell on top of her," said Thao Le, Linda's mother.

"Yeah, I kind of felt a pain in my neck, I sat up and passed out," Linda Le said.

Linda is better after wearing a neck brace all summer, but her medical bills total $3,000 to $4,000 and her mother does not have insurance.

"They're pushing me for payment," Thao Le said.

Le felt the school district would be financially responsible, but that is not the news she received.

Wake County Schools

carries liability insurance and its carrier investigated the accident. Its conclusion five months later was that that participation was voluntary and there was no evidence the school was responsible. So it declined payment.

"It's one of those things where it's a terrible accident. We feel terrible we handed it over to the experts who looked at the facts and made a decision," said Michael Evans of Wake County Schools.

The school system offers supplemental insurance for students whose parents do not have insurance. The cost is $8 to $12 a year to cover any injury that happens during school hours. Le did not have the supplemental insurance.

"I feel that's not the way it's supposed to be," she said.

Thao Le does question the amount of supervision. Attorneys told WRAL if she can prove that there were not adults paying attention, she would have a case; otherwise, she is on her own.

Last year, Wake Public Schools had 37 injuries reported. The insurance company paid on 10 of those claims. The school board could take up the issue of paying for the medical bills if one of the board members asks it to do so.


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