Students In Chemistry Fire at Woodson Will Face Legal Battle

Posted on Oct 30, 2015

Those students injured in the recent fire that erupted in a chemistry class and Woodson high school in Fairfax Virginia will face an almost impossible legal burden to recover damages for their injuries.

Virginia follows an immunity doctrine known as "sovereign immunity." Generally speaking, claims cannot be brought against public school teachers for their carelessness. (An investigation into the fire at Woodson high school is ongoing. No cause has been established as of yet.)

In 1988 the Supreme Court of Virginia heard a case involving injuries that a student sustained in a physical education class. The student had been injured while playing tackle football without wearing any protective equipment. He sued the physical education teacher.

The Supreme Court of Virginia held that

the health and physical education teacher in this case is immune from suit. Since the case does not support a charge of either gross negligence or intentional misconduct and because the teacher was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the injury no lawsuit can be brought.

In the event that an investigation reveals that anyone was grossly negligent in causing this explosion and fire, a claim could be brought.

The Supreme Court of Virginia has said over and over again that if the law of sovereign immunity is to be changed it must be changed by Virginia's General Assembly.