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Governmental Immunity

WI Court of Appeals – District IV

Case Name: Vincent Foreman-Ante, et al., v. Edgerton School District, et al.,

Case No.: 2020AP482

Officials: Fitzpatrick, P.J., Blanchard, and Graham, JJ.

Focus: Governmental Immunity

Vincent Foreman-Ante participated in a psychology class activity at Edgerton High School. As a part of that activity, Vincent was instructed by a teacher to wear a blindfold over his eyes and to move across the school fieldhouse with the assistance of another student who was to give verbal cues to Vincent. Vincent was injured during the activity when he collided with a wall.

Vincent and his parents brought this action against the Edgerton School District and its liability insurer, Emcasco Insurance Company, in the Rock County Circuit Court alleging that the negligence of Vincent’s teacher caused Vincent’s injuries. The School District moved for summary judgment, arguing that it is entitled to governmental immunity under WIS. STAT. § 893.80(4) (2019- 20), and Vincent argued in response that the known danger exception to governmental immunity applies in these circumstances. The circuit court denied the School District’s motion in an oral ruling and in a written order. The circuit court did not explicitly grant summary judgment to Vincent in its oral ruling or in a written order. Nonetheless, in its oral ruling on the School District’s summary judgment motion, the circuit court stated: “I believe the [known danger] exception applies here. There is no governmental immunity, and I am denying the motion for summary judgment.” We conclude that the circuit court intended to grant summary judgment in favor of Vincent on the issue of governmental immunity.

The School District filed a petition for leave to appeal, based on its request that we reverse the circuit court’s summary judgment decision and, instead, hold that the School District is entitled to governmental immunity. We granted the petition for leave to appeal. See WIS. STAT. § 809.50(3).

We affirm the circuit court’s denial of the School District’s motion for summary judgment because, based on the summary judgment materials, there are genuine issues of material fact concerning the School District’s claim of governmental immunity and concerning Vincent’s contention that the known danger exception to governmental immunity applies in these circumstances. It then follows that those same factual disputes require reversal of the circuit court’s ruling that the School District is not entitled to governmental immunity based on the known danger exception. We therefore remand this matter to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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Derek A Hawkins is Corporate Counsel, at Salesforce.

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