Appellate Court Holds Educational Malpractice Claims Not Cognizable in Illinois

by Franczek Radelet P.C.

[author: Ellen Wetmore]

In a case of first impression, the First District Appellate Court recently held in Waugh v. Morgan Stanley and Co., Inc. that the tort of “educational malpractice,” also called “negligent instruction,” is not a cognizable cause of action in Illinois.

In Waugh, several flight instructors and flight schools were sued for negligent training and negligent instruction in connection with a fatal airplane crash. The claims brought against these defendants were based on their training of the plane’s pilot, who was killed in the crash. Reasoning that the negligence claims were premised on a theory of educational malpractice, the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the flight instructors and schools, holding that such educational malpractice claims were barred as a matter of law.

Significantly, the Court defined educational malpractice broadly, holding that “[i]f a claim raises questions about the reasonableness of an educator’s conduct in providing educational services, or if a claim requires an analysis of the quality of education, it is a claim for educational malpractice.” The Court then explained that any claims that “clearly fit within the matrix for claims sounding in educational malpractice” will not be analyzed as ordinary negligence claims, and instead, will be barred as educational malpractice claims.

The Court articulated three types of claims that fall under the rubric of educational malpractice: “(1) the student alleges that the school negligently failed to provide him with adequate skills; (2) the student alleges that the school negligently diagnosed or failed to diagnose his learning or mental disabilities; or (3) the student alleges that the school negligently supervised his training.” (The Court distinguished “negligent training” in the employer/employee context and noted that employers may still be held liable for injuries caused by employees that they negligently train or supervise.)

In holding that the tort of educational malpractice is not cognizable in Illinois, the Court observed that most jurisdictions that have considered the issue have refused to recognize a cause of action for educational malpractice. In addition, the Court noted that the Seventh Circuit interpreted Illinois law in the case Ross v. Creighton University to find that the Illinois Supreme Court would not, in the Seventh Circuit’s estimation, recognize a cause of action for educational malpractice.

Citing decisions from a variety of other jurisdictions, the Court articulated several policy reasons why educational malpractice claims should not be cognizable: “(1) the lack of a satisfactory standard of care by which to evaluate an educator; (2) the inherent uncertainties about causation and the nature of damages in light of such intervening factors as a student’s attitude, temperament, past experience, and home environment; (3) the potential for a flood of litigation against schools; and (4) the possibility that such claims will embroil the courts into overseeing the day-to-day operations of schools.”

Underscoring the breadth of its holding, the Court explicitly refused to carve out any exception that would permit educational malpractice claims against “nontraditional educational institutions,” clarifying that the analysis “turns on the type of claim raised, not the type of defendant.” Furthermore, the Court declined to allow the application of ordinary negligence principles (as the one dissenting justice would have done) to cases in which physical injury is alleged.

For the first time, an Illinois Appellate Court has definitively confirmed that claims for educational malpractice cannot be brought under Illinois law. In addition, by barring any claim that (1) raises a question about the reasonableness of an educator’s conduct in providing educational services; or (2) requires an analysis of the quality of education, the Court’s decision makes it clear that plaintiffs cannot avoid the effect of the rule by framing their claims as ordinary negligence claims.

The Waugh decision aligns Illinois with the majority of other jurisdictions that have considered the issue of educational malpractice and is consistent with other lines of authority in Illinois law that defer to academic judgments made by educational institutions.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Franczek Radelet P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Franczek Radelet P.C.

Franczek Radelet P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.