A settlement has been reached in the death of Avonte Oquendo, wherein Oquendo’s family agreed to a $2.7-million payout from the city, CBS2 reported. In October of 2013, the 14-year-old autistic boy vanished from the Riverview School in Long Island City. Three months later, his body was found on a beach in College Point, Queens.
When an individual suffers an injury or death in an accident caused by a government agency such as a public school, they may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the local municipality. Lawsuits against municipalities and municipal subdivisions, however, differ from those filed against normal citizens and insurance companies. A “municipality” refers to any type of government entity, such as villages, towns, cities, or states. A “municipal subdivision” refers to any agency, such as the New York City Board of Education.
The tragic case of Avonte Oquendo, involves several areas of New York law. In order for there to be municipal liability, it must be proven that a government agency acted negligently. In order to prove negligence, the government agency in question must have had a duty of care to the injured party. A duty of care is a legal obligation that one party has to use a certain degree of care when performing a task, in the instant case, providing adequate security and supervision to an autistic boy entrusted to the school district. In order to prevail, lawyers for the Oquendo family were required to show that the Riverview School and the New York City Department of Education violated their duty of care towards the child. Furthermore, the family ‘s attorneys were required to show that the school’s negligence was directly responsible for the disappearance and death of the child.