In May 2018, our clients’ nine-year-old son was killed when he was crushed by a motorized partition at his school. The soundproof partition, which opens and closes, separates the gym from a “music room.” The partition is designed in such a way that when it begins to “open” a hand or arm or, as happened in this case, a child’s skull, can be caught in a less-than-nine inch-wide gap and quickly crushed.
For this case, we co-counseled with Bryan Slaughter and Lee Livingston and their team at Michie Hamlet, in Charlottesville. Bryan, Lee and Kyle McKnew provided deep experience in product liability and sovereign immunity law.
Claims were presented to the school system and other county employees for negligent supervision. Claims were also presented to the manufacturer, distributor and installer of the moveable partition for negligence in the design and installation of the partition.
The case settled in two waves. In the fall of 2019, a settlement was reached with school and county representatives for a total of $2 million. The school system also agreed to change the school mascot to a penguin (the child’s favorite animal) and to dedicate a “reading corner” in the library in his memory.
In the spring of 2020, a settlement for an additional $3.5 million was reached with the group of manufacturers, distributors and installers.