JeanAnn Fenrich, individually, and as trustee for the heirs of Gary Fenrich, Appellant,
The Blake School, et al., Respondents.
County District Court File No. 83-CV-14-612
Kenneth R. White, Law Office of Kenneth R. White, P.C.,
Mankato, Minnesota; and Ryan B. Magnus, Mankato, Minnesota;
and Jennifer L. Thon, Jones Law Office, Mankato, Minnesota
R. Weinand, Law Offices of Thomas P. Stilp, Golden Valley,
Minnesota (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Reilly, Presiding Judge; Johnson,
Judge; and Larkin, Judge.
the risk of an automobile accident in this particular case
was not foreseeable, respondent school did not assume a duty
of reasonable care to the general public by agreeing that one
of its students would drive himself and other students to an
out-of-town, extra-curricular activity in his family's
high-school student caused an automobile accident while
driving himself and other students to an extra-curricular
activity in his family's vehicle. The driver of the other
vehicle was killed, and a passenger of the other vehicle was
injured. The issue in this appeal is whether the
student's school may be held liable to the persons in the
other vehicle on the ground that the school was negligent.
The district court answered that question in the negative,
reasoning that a school does not owe a duty of reasonable
care to the general public to protect against the tortious
conduct of its students. We conclude that, in the
circumstances of this case, the school is entitled to summary
judgment because the automobile accident was not foreseeable.
Therefore, we affirm.
Blake School is a private school in the Twin Cities, with a
high school in Minneapolis. In 2011, the high school
sponsored a cross-country running team that participated in
inter-scholastic meets governed by the Minnesota State High
School League (MSHSL). The high school employed a head coach
and a part-time assistant coach for the cross-country team.
week after the end of the MSHSL cross-country season, Nike
Inc. hosted the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional
cross-country meet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Several
weeks before the Nike meet, the head coach sent an e-mail
message to all team members and their parents, stating that
"all varsity and top JV runners are encouraged to
participate" in the Nike meet. Because the Nike meet was
to occur after the MSHSL season, the school's coaches
determined that team members could not participate in the
Nike meet on behalf of the school and, thus, that the school
could not provide uniforms, transportation, or other
resources. The assistant coach informed team members that
they would be responsible for their own transportation and
lodging. This information also was posted on the team's
website. The school's coaches also determined that they
could not conduct practices after the MSHSL season. A former
team member, who had graduated from the school one and
one-half years earlier and sometimes assisted on a volunteer
basis, was available to lead "captains'
practices" during the week between the end of the MSHSL
season and the Nike meet.
that week, the assistant coach stopped by one of the
captains' practices to talk to team members to "make
sure that they talked to their parents about the lodging and
transportation." Some team members said that they would
like to ride to the Nike meet in the assistant coach's
vehicle. Three days before the Nike meet, the mother of T.M.,
a member of the team, sent an e-mail message to the head
coach and the assistant coach concerning T.M.'s
transportation to the Nike meet:
[T.M.], his dad and I just finished a conversation about
transportation for the race this weekend. It sounds like
[T.M.] (and the boys) would like to have a caravan down and
back with you. We are very comfortable with [T.M.]'s
driving skills and he's legal now to have passengers, and
we are fine with him taking our car. Given the long distance
though, we would like to know that he is following you, and
won't be venturing to Sioux Falls and back without an
adult at least in rear view mirrors. All we would need is you
to confirm that is the plan, and perhaps your cell phone, so
that we have a way to reach an adult if need be. I'm not
able to go this weekend. Please know that [T.M.'s father]
is willing to drive as well, if you would prefer that, but we
understand also that "Coach plus kids" sounds like
a more fun venture for [T.M.] and the boy team runners.
That's what we are hearing tonight anyway. . . . Please
call if you want to discuss. . . . Let me know.
assistant coach responded by writing, "That works, we
will drive in a ...