School District Catches Heat for Child’s Death

     (CN) – A Wyoming school district must face civil claims after a bench propped against a gymnasium wall killed a 5-year-old boy who slid into it while playing, the state Supreme Court ruled.
     The tragedy occurred during a Feb. 9, 2010, basketball game in the town of Etna.
     While the Lincoln County School District used to control the property where the game was held, the Metcalf School, it turned the building over to the community after opening a new site in 2008.
     The gymnasium where the basketball game was held also sometimes served as a lunchroom. When not in use, its heavy tables and benches were supposed to be folded into a wall and latched into place.
     Taylor Lysager, 5, had attended the game with his grandparents. While he was playing with other children, he slid into a lunchroom bench that had been removed from the gymnasium wall and propped against a wall.
     The bench tipped over and fell on top of Lysager, crushing his skull and killing him instantly.
     Lysager’s personal representative, Richard Amos Jr., sued the county, the town of Thayne, which had held the game, and Lincoln County School District No. 2 for breach of duty and proximate cause.
     After dismissing the county from the action, a district judge in Lincoln granted the school district summary judgment.
     Amos appealed both issues, and the Wyoming Supreme Court agreed last week to revive the claims against the school district.
     Though Amos has not proved that the school board caused the accident by propping up the bench in the storage room, “it remains a jury question whether the school district breached its duty of reasonable care by failing to warn the community group of the dangers of mishandling the lunchroom benches and tables and by failing to restrict access to the keys used to unlock the benches and tables,” according to the Aug. 21 ruling.
     A jury should decide the issue of proximate cause, the court found.
     “The record contains evidence that before the accident involving Taylor Lysager, another child was injured when a table or bench fell from the wall and struck the child,” Justice William Hill wrote for the court.
     “Reasonable minds might differ on whether that suggests that the Community Group already had notice of the need to properly secure the tables and benches and that any additional warning by the school board would have been of little or no consequence,” Hill added.

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