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$________ School board negligence - Teacher negligence - Minor child chokes to death during a game of "Chubby Bunny" in a school sponsored program while left unattended by an adult.

Cook County, Illinois

In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that their 12-year-old daughter choked to death while she and fellow classmates were left unattended. The plaintiffs contended that the teacher left the children alone and failed to notify any other teachers or aides to watch over the children in his absence.

To culminate a weeklong educational program on respect and responsibility, the children at the defendant school conducted a Care Fair on June 4, ________. The Care Fair consisted of several games hosted by each class which could be played by buying tickets for a nickel or dime each. The class of the defendant teacher, Kevin Dorken, was going to host a "Chubby Bunny" game; a fortune teller’s card game; and a "throw a wet sponge" game. The minor decedent was in the defendant teacher’s sixth grade class at Hoffman Elementary School in Glenview, Illinois.

The 12-year-old female decedent and her friends were playing the game "Chubby Bunny" during a school sponsored program. "Chubby Bunny" is a game where a child puts a full sized marshmallow in his or her mouth and says "Chubby Bunny" and then puts another marshmallow in and repeats the phrase, repeating the sequence until the child can no longer speak the phrase. The defendant teacher left the room, leaving the children playing this game unsupervised. He failed to advise any of his fellow teachers that he was leaving the room and did not ask anyone to cover for him. While the teacher was out of the room, the minor decedent choked on a marshmallow. She was able to signal her fellow classmates who went for help, however the child passed out and was unable to be resuscitated.

The plaintiffs brought suit alleging that the teacher and the school board were negligent in permitting the children to play the game and by failing to supervise the children.

The defendant maintained that it was immune from liability based upon statutory immunity granted to the school board. The defendant filed motions to dismiss on this issue. The court partially granted the defendant’s motions. The court determined that the school had discretionary immunity in the games it permitted the children to play regardless of how dangerous a particular game may be to the children. The court however ruled that the defendant did not have immunity regarding how the game was played. The court ruled that the issue of permitting the game to be played by the children in an unsupervised manner was not subject to the statutory immunity. The court permitted this issue to be tried.  The trial commenced and after eight days, just prior to the plaintiffs calling the absent teacher as a witness, the defendants agreed to settle the plaintiff’s claims.

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