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Student Can Sue School Over Scalpel Injuries

(CN) - The Wisconsin Court of Appeals allowed an eighth-grade student to pursue a negligence claim against his school district after he cut through two of his fingers and severed a tendon with a scalpel while dissecting a flower in science class.

The appeals court affirmed a lower court's ruling that the Kenosha Unified School District isn't immune from liability, because the student's teacher took no action to confront an "open and obvious danger."

The appellate panel found that Andrew Heuser has standing under a known and compelling danger exception to governmental immunity.

Heuser's teacher did not show students how to use a scalpel for a flower dissection lab, the judges noted, but simply warned students they were sharp.

After two students got cut using the scalpel during the first class of the day, the teacher filled out an accident form and stated that the injuries could be averted by limiting scalpel use or providing scissors, but she did neither in subsequent classes.

"While the teacher had the option to pick one precautionary measure over another, she certainly did not have the option to do nothing," Judge Brown wrote.

The teacher's failure to adjust her approach to the lab activity made the school system liable for negligence, Brown ruled.

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