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Court dismisses gross negligence claim against teacher and principal

In 2008, Tristan Parent was a sixth-grader who suffers from a severe condition, osteogenesis imperfecta or "brittle bone disease."  He was hurt when a shelf in the computer lab fell and struck him in his wheelchair.  His mother sued on his behalf, arguing that the principal and long-term substitute teacher were guilty of gross negligence in allowing Tristan to be unsupervised in the computer lab.

The Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision and dismissed the claims against the teacher and principal.  It noted that under the Individualized Education Plan, Tristan was to be supervised only 4 to 6 hours of the 7 hour school day, and was to exercise some independence in safe circumstances.  It reviewed the facts of Tristan's limited unsupervised time in the lab, which included the teacher's instructions to return to his classroom if the lab was unsupervised, and determined that Tristan's mom presented evidence of ordinary negligence, at most.  As government actors, the teacher and principal are responsible only for gross negligence.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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