Trial Awaits School for Family Fun Night Fiasco | Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Trial Awaits School for Family Fun Night Fiasco

(CN) - Sponsors of a school's Family Fun Night must face a trial over a 70-pound exhibit that pinned a 5-year-old girl, a New York appeals court ruled.

Elaine Tucker sued the Germantown Central School District and its Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), the co-sponsors of the event, on behalf of her daughter, Ellie Butler.

One of the attractions at the Family Fun Night, which the Catskill-area groups held in March 2009, was an interactive pinscreen invented by Wardwell Fleming, another defendant in the lawsuit.

Ellie climbed onto the 72-inch pinscreen, bringing it down on top of her and sustaining severe injuries.

In her lawsuit, Butler argued that the school district failed to supervise and monitor the pinscreen exhibit.

A judge in Columbia County refused to dismiss the case, and the Appellate Division's Albany-based Third Judicial Department affirmed.

The school district was holding a science fair together with the Fun Night and pooled resources to do so, according to the ruling.

"Moreover, its personnel helped set up the tables that were used for Family Fun Night, and the school district nurse was on the scene to provide medical aid if needed," Justice Michael Kavanagh wrote for a five-member panel. "This evidence, in our view, creates triable questions of fact as to whether the School District had sufficient control over this event so that it could have taken reasonable steps that would have prevented this accident."

Though the PTSA said it had no control over the exhibits, the court found that evidence may prove otherwise.

"[Event chair Katherine] Overington determined where the exhibits would be placed and made arrangements for Fleming to participate in the event, including the payment of his expenses," Kavanagh wrote.

"At the very minimum, a question of fact exists as to whether the PTSA exercised sufficient control over this event that created a duty to plaintiff upon which its legal responsibility for this accident could be based," he added.

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