Tennessee Appeals Court Dismisses Ex-Cheerleader’s Lawsuit Over High School Fight
In 2013, an eighth-grade student named Gamelia attended Woodstock Middle School in Millington, Tennessee, where she was also on the cheerleading team. At a sporting event between Woodstock and the nearby Millington Middle school, there was an incident between the two cheerleading squads. According to Gamelia and her parents, two of the Millington cheerleaders “began to mock the Woodstock cheerleaders and Gamelia in particular.” Afterwards, the two Milligan students posted about the incident on their Facebook pages.
The following year, Gamelia attended Millington High School. Gamelia’s mother said she told a guidance counselor at Millington about what had happened the previous year between her daughter and the Millington Middle School cheerleaders.
On the afternoon of September 22, 2014, Gaemlia was standing outside of Millington High School, waiting for her older sister to pick her up. Two fights broke out simultaneously. One of them involved Gamelia and the two cheerleaders from the previous year’s incident. Gamelia’s sister arrived shortly thereafter, as did a law enforcement officer assigned to the school. All of the girls faced criminal charges, and the school suspended Gamelia, who suffered a broken nose in the fight.
Judge Finds Insufficient Evidence School Was “On Notice” About Potential for Violence
Gamelia and her parents subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the school district. The family alleged the school was negligent in failing to properly supervise the students while they were waiting for their rides home after school. The case was tried before Shelby County Circuit Judge Jerry Stokes in July 2019.
Judge Stokes returned a judgment for the school district. He determined that based on the testimony presented, the school itself never had “actual or constructive notice of the animosity” between Gamelia and her two attackers “such that preventive measures could have been taken” to stop the fight. Essentially, Stokes concluded the fight “occurred organically before any school personnel had time to anticipate it or prevent it.”
As noted above, Gamelia’s mother testified that she informed the Millington High School counselor about the incident during the 2013 school year. But Stokes said this testimony “was simply not supported by the evidence.” The mother could not recall the counselor’s name, and there was no written record of any meeting.
Do Not Represent Yourself in Court–Contact a Qualified Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer
Gamelia and her parents appealed Judge Stokes’ decision to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, the appellate court never received a transcript of the trial or a statement of the evidence presented–items that the family, as the parties filing the appeal, were required to provide under Tennessee law. Without this information, the Court of Appeals was compelled to assume Judge Stokes’ decision was supported by sufficient evidence and affirmed his ultimate ruling.
The failure to provide a transcript or record was apparently due to the fact that Gamelia and her parents represented themselves on appeal. But as the Court of Appeals explained, even when a party chooses to proceed without an attorney, they are still “held to the same procedural and substantive standards to which lawyers must adhere.”
Indeed, personal injury litigation is not a project that you should never attempt to handle yourself. An experienced Clinton personal injury attorney can represent your interests and help ensure your case is given a full and fair hearing by the courts. Contact the offices of Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.