Ruling allows trial contending Indiana school district liable for boys' shooting injuries



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INDIANAPOLIS — A lawsuit contending a central Indiana school district is liable for two students' injuries in a school shooting can proceed to trial after the state Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a ruling allowing the case to stand.

The Indiana Supreme Court decided 4-1 against reviewing an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year that determined the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville can be held liable for the injuries in the March 2011 shooting at Martinsville West Middle School, The (Munster) Times reported (http://bit.ly/12j2qPw ).

Michael Phelps was convicted of attempted murder for shooting Chance Jackson twice in the stomach in a dispute over a girl. Jackson was hospitalized for several weeks and needed several surgeries. The ejected shell casings hit Jackson's friend, Brandon Kent, injuring his hand.

At the time of the shooting, Phelps was suspended from school with expulsion pending due to a prior threat to "blow up the school." He was unnoticed by safety monitors at the school doors when he slipped into the building and shot Jackson in a vestibule.

The appeals court ruled in May that implementation of a school safety plan did not fall under the immunity protections of Indiana's Tort Claims Act and that only a trial could determine whether the school failed in its duty to protect the students. The lawsuit claims school officials had numerous warnings and might reasonably have expected the shooting to occur.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush was alone in voting to hear the school district's appeal. Three of the Supreme Court's five justices must agree to grant transfer for a Court of Appeals decision to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

The mothers of Jackson and Kent are suing the district for unspecified damages. A trial date in Morgan Superior Court has not been set.

Phelps, now 19, was convicted as an adult and is serving a 30-year prison term.


Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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