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Dismissal of lawsuit vs. vo-tech upheld

Appellate court rules W-B teacher was not negligent in accident that injured student.

WILKES-BARRE – A federal appellate court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational Technical School by the parents of a boy who was injured when a truck tire burst while being inflated.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled David and Dolores Brown had failed to show that the teacher who was inflating the tire, John Farrell, had acted with the required degree of negligence to support their claim.

The Browns filed suit against the school and Farrell in 2005 for injuries their son Allan, then 15, suffered when the truck tire blew off its rim and struck the boy in the head in 2004.

Brown, a student at Greater Nanticoke Area, suffered numerous injuries, including a broken jaw, fractured cheek bones and a shattered nose and was hospitalized for five days, according to the suit.

The suit claimed Farrell was negligent for failing to place the tire inside a cage before inflating it. The case went to trial in May 2007, but a judge dismissed the case before it went to the jury, ruling that the Browns had failed to prove their case as a matter of law.

U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo said the Browns had failed to meet the legal standard for the statutes under which they sought damages. That statute required, among other things, that they show Farrell acted with a degree of negligence that “shocks the conscience” of an average person.

Caputo said that although Farrell may have been negligent, his actions were not consciously shocking because he had had tied chains to the tire before inflating it – a standard safety precaution utilized in the tire industry.

The Third Circuit court concurred with Caputo, saying that the precautions Farrell adopted “were not shocking by any reasonable assessment.”

“There was, in short, no evidence from which a jury could rationally find that Farrell’s decision to use a chain rather than a cage represented deliberate indifference,” the court wrote.

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