School vicariously liable for negligence on part of teachers accompanying students on study tour, compensation of Rs 50 lakh imposed

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: While holding B.N.M. Educational Institutions at Bangalore, vicariously liable for negligence on the part of the teachers accompanying a student who suffered brain inflammation during an educational tour in North India, NCDRC imposed a compensation of Rs 50 lakh upon the Institutions. The student who was among a group of students and teachers which travelled to North India as part of a study trip organized by the school in December 2006, suffered from fever during the trip and allegedly was not taken proper care of. As she fell unconscious in the bathroom, she was admitted in Jessa Ram Fortis hospital, Delhi, where it was diagnosed that she had suffered a viral fever, namely, Meningo Encephalitis. The doctors further opined that had she been given timely medical aid and attention, she could easily have been cured. Then she was shifted to Max hospital, where she remained for as many as 53 days, out of which 23 days were spent in ICU. She remained unconscious throughout this period and underwent hundreds of tests, scans and other investigations. At Bangalore, she was admitted in Mallya Hospital, where she was put on ventilator and treated with higher antibiotics, steroids etc. and was discharged after 74 days.

It was alleged by the girl’s father that despite extensive medical treatment, her mental condition and IQ is said to be the level of a 21 months old child, though earlier she got distinctions in her studies, and she also excelled in sports and cultural activities. Now, she was stated to be bedridden, requiring constant care of others as her movements have been severely restricted. Her father had alleged that about 35 lakhs have been spent on her medical treatment etc. and her parents and other family members were suffering from grave mental torture, besides the financial burden. Alleging gross negligence on the part of the teachers who were accompanying her and the school management in taking care of the child at the time she was in their care, control and supervision, the complainant approached the Karnataka State Commission, which imposed a compensation of Rs 88.7 lakh upon the Educational Institutions.

B.N.M. Educational Institutions filed an appeal against the order of the State Commission before NCDRC. After referring to the medical records concerning the student from all the hospitals, NCDRC observed that a sudden blackout and becoming unconscious even for a minute or so, warranted immediate medical attention by a qualified doctor, which was not something to be ignored. “Since the teachers accompanying the complainant were grossly negligent in taking her care despite taking such care being their mandatory duty, due to the complainant being in their protection and care, the appellants have rightly been held vicariously liable for the said negligence and accordingly have to duly compensate the complainant, to the extent such a compensation is possible,” noted the Commission. For determination of quantum of compensation, NCDRC considered the factors like medical expenses incurred upon the girl, extent of her disability, her future prospects of marriage, physical, mental and financial trauma suffered by the parents, etc. and directed B.N.M. Educational Institutions to pay a consolidated amount of Rs. 50 lakh as an all-inclusive one time compensation to the complainant, along with interest @ 8% per annum from the date of filing of the complaint. [B.N.M. Educational Institutions v. Kum Akshatha2016 SCC OnLine NCDRC 1116, decided on September 14, 2016]

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