High school shop accident prompts lawsuit
A 2012 accident is coming back to haunt Grand Valley High School and Garfield County School District 16 in the form of a lawsuit filed on Oct. 30, 2014 — just before the second anniversary of the incident.
The plaintiff, Jacob White of Parachute, was severely injured while working in Grand Valley High School’s welding and shop facility on Oct. 31, 2012. According to the suit, White was helping to change the oil in a pickup when another student started the truck without depressing the clutch. It lurched forward, pinning White to an adjacent machine. The lawsuit says rescue crews had to extract him from the machine before he could be flown to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction for treatment.
White’s father, Scott, later told the Post Independent that doctors seriously considered amputating White’s left leg. The injury ultimately prevented White, a senior at the school, from participating in fall and winter sports, but he made a return to the field for baseball in the spring. Meanwhile, the community undertook several fundraising efforts to help pay his medical bills.
The lawsuit, filed in Garfield County District Court by Grand Junction law firm Peters & Noland LLC, makes five claims of negligence — one against the student who started the truck and two each against the school and the district. It asserts that a sharp piece of angle iron on the outside of the machine White was pinned against constituted “a dangerous condition,” and that the shop “did not contain adequate safety equipment for maintaining motor vehicles.”
The school, it says, “owed a duty to Jacob White … to assure that the welding and shop facility was maintained in a safe condition.” The suit seeks unspecified payment of economic and noneconomic losses, as well as the cost of litigation and investigation.
Denver law firm Semple, Farrington and Everall PC responded on behalf on the defendants by submitting a motion to dismiss on Dec. 19. The motion contends that the school is protected by governmental immunity.
“The Colorado Supreme Court is very clear that governmental immunity is never waived based on an injury that occurred as a result of the activities taking place within a facility or the operation of the facility itself,” the motion asserts.
The suit reasons that because the machine against which White was pinned appeared to be in acceptable repair, was not in use and, moreover, not attached to the ground, it does not qualify as a physical or structural part of the facility. It cites precedent from Reynolds v State Board of Community Colleges and Occupational Education, a 1996 Colorado case that was dismissed because a printing press involved was judged not to be a fixture in the building.
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