Rare case holds that injured student may take claim to the jury
Nicholas White almost completely severed three fingers from his left hand in shop class. He was "rip cutting" a strip of wood in the same manner his shop teacher had demonstrated--without using the blade guard. The guard would have prevented his injury, however, White had never been shown how to use the guard or instructed to use it. Through his Next Friend, White sued the Roseville Schools and Matthew Komarowski, the shop teacher.
The school was dismissed from the case because a school enjoys complete "governmental immunity" from negligence claims under Michigan law. The Court of Appeals ruled, however, that Komarowski must defend the case because a jury could find that his conduct was "gross negligence"--the statutory exception to governmental immunity.
The decisions of the Michigan Supreme Court, since Republicans have controlled it, have held that the statutory "gross negligence" necessary to hold a governmental actor accountable for injuries he caused is more than just aggravated negilgence: it must be wilful and wanton conduct showing a disregard for likely injury. The Court in this case determined that under the circumstances, reasonable jurors could conclude tht Komarowski's conduct fit this description.