MOUNT CARMEL — The parent of a Mount Carmel Area High School student who was injured in a chemistry class accident is suing the Mount Carmel Area School District and four of its employees.
The civil suit was filed late Friday by attorney Bryan M. Ferris, of Swartz Culleton, Newtown, on behalf of the plaintiff, Karen Green, whose daughter, identified as “M.G.,” was injured in the accident, which occurred on the morning of Aug. 30.
Named as co-defendants are Superintendent Bernard Stellar, high school Principal Lisa Varano, chemistry teacher Tammy Michaels and school nurse Leanne Ryan.
Stellar, contacted Saturday, said he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit and had no comment.
The suit alleges the defendants failed to heed the advice of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) who, since 2014 and 2015, respectively, have urged against performing methanol flame experiments on open laboratory desks in the classroom because they pose an “unnecessary and serious risk” of injury to students.
In addition, the lawsuit says that in 2015 the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) updated its safety standards to include specific guidelines for conducting such experiments, none of which were followed by the defendants in this case, it is alleged.
The suit claims that on the date in question, Michaels had planned a chemistry experiment that involved the igniting of liquid methanol. The experiment was planned and performed with the consent of the district, Stellar and Varano, all of whom, the suit states, had a history of allowing the dangerous experiment to take place without requiring appropriate safety measures.
Michaels had allegedly been performing the experiment for the past 23 years with the approval of Stellar and Varano and since 2015 in violation of NFPA safety standards, according to the lawsuit. In its 2015 statement, the NSTA also explained that the experiments pose a high risk for flash fires that can cause serious injuries to both students and teachers.
As far back as 2013, the U.S. Chemical Safety Investigation Board issued a similar warning and documented evidence of burn injuries to a high school student similar to those suffered by M.G., the lawsuit claims.
Count 1 claims the violation and loss of M.G.’s liberty interests protected by the 14th Amendment relative to personal bodily integrity and physical safety through negligent actions of the defendants.
Count 2 addresses supervisory liability on the part of Stellar and Varano, whom it alleges took no action toward Michaels to curtail or eliminate altogether chemical experiments in her classroom.
Count 3 states that the district is subject to a “Monell liability” for permitting its policymakers to allow the experiments to continue and for not adequately training and or supervising Michaels and her experiments.
Count 4 refers to a “state-created danger” that it claims fostered an environment of unsafe practices in the district that could have been prevented along with the resulting burn injuries, which it claims were “foreseeable” and “direct” as indicated by the warnings.
Count 5 claims negligence on the part of the district and its co-defendants for allowing a dangerous classroom practice to continue unchecked, resulting in the accident and bodily harm to M.G. In addition to the culpability of the district, superintendent, principal and teacher, it also claims that appropriate medical treatment was not properly administered in a timely manner by Ryan.
Claim for relief
Green is seeking punitive and compensatory damages from the co-defendants in an amount exceeding $150,000 for each count, plus additional costs and legal fees.