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Sovereign Immunity Doctrine Survives Challenge

In a recent decision issued by the Connecticut Supreme Court, the doctrine of sovereign immunity was held to protect a school district from liability from suit as a result of an injury sustained by a parent picking up a six year old child from an after school program sponsored by the Hartford Board of Education. Durrant v. Board of Educ. of Hartford, 284 Conn. 91 (2007).  Reasoning that the child’s attendance at the after-school program was voluntary rather than mandatory, the presence of the parent on school grounds to pick up that child from the program and escort him home was likewise voluntary rather than mandatory.  Therefore, although the parent was injured when she slipped in a puddle of water in a stairwell, the doctrine of soveriegn immunity protected the school district and its agents from liability for the injury.  The court rejected the argument that because the creation of the after-school program was authorized by statute, this indicated an intention on the part of the legislature to abrogate the doctrine of sovereign immunity and allow school districts to be held liable for these types of injuries.  The court also noted that the mere fact that the school district maintained insurance coverage for personal injury claims was not an indication that sovereign immunity should be abrogated, since school districts are expected to maintain insurance coverage for other reasons.  Will decisions like this discourage insurance carriers from raising premiums on coverage for school districts in Connecticut this year?