Lawsuit against Cape Henlopen schools dismissed

LEWES — Absent gross negligence, a lawsuit involving a third grader severely injured during a classroom incident was dismissed on March 20.

The child’s parent sued the Cape Henlopen School District and a teacher for the 2016 accident at Rehoboth Beach Elementary School, claiming that the instructor was aware of a broken classroom door that closed and severed the tip of the student’s right little finger.

In a nine-page opinion, Superior Court Judge Richard R. Cooch found that the incident did meet the standard of immunity for public schools and employees based on wide discretion on how to conduct the exercise.

“The (teacher) used a functional wedge doorstop to keep the door open,” the judge determined. “The door had no other known issues.

“Directing the students to take measurements near a fully operational door does not constitute gross negligence.”

While the plaintiff initially alleged that a gust of wind slammed the door shut, that was abandoned after oral argument after discovery.

Actually, according to facts of the case, the student was measuring a flag by the classroom door when another classmate entered the room and the door was closed shut.

The door was the lone entrance to the classroom, the judge noted, and “had a self-closing mechanism which closed the door automatically.

“A kickstand attached to the door was intended to stop the door from closing. However, the kickstand did not have enough grip on the floor to prevent the door from closing. ,,,

“Through the course of discovery, the parties learned that the alleged similar incidents did not occur until after the accident.”

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