The estate of the decedent, Kamonie Slade, and his parents, brought a lawsuit against the administrators of the public school he was attending at the time of his death from drowning in a class outing. The case was brought under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court judge granted summary judgment for the defendants, the Board of School Directors, which also relinquished jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s supplemental state court tort claim and dismissed the lawsuit.
The appeal brought to the Seventh Circuit in Chicago challenged the dismissal of the federal case. In addition to the board of school directors, the plaintiffs named the principal and assistant principal of the school. The court pointed out that the Wisconsin law caps the tort liability of a public employee at $50,000 per victim. That would make the maximum recovery under state law for wrongful death and loss of consortium $150,000, which the court of appeals pointed out was meager under the circumstances.
This case arises out of a planned field trip to a lake for graduating 7th graders on the last day of their school year. The public school district forbids recreational swimming on field trips unless a lifeguard is present. There was no lifeguard present when Kamonie drowned. There were 92 children participating in the outing.