Pa. student‰??s lawsuit over burns suffered during chemistry class explosion is dismissed
WILLIAMSPORT ‰?? A federal judge has dismissed the suit a mother brought over injuries her daughter suffered last year in a liquid methanol demonstration in a Mount Carmel Area High School classroom.
U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann on Wednesday gave Karen Green of Locust Gap the opportunity to file an amended complaint but questioned whether she can successfully allege any plausible claims.
The averments in the dismissed complaint appear to be more legal conclusions than factual allegations, the judge wrote.
Green failed to allege facts that infer the defendants were aware of the risks of the experiment, he said, noting chemistry teacher Tammy Michaels had performed it for 23 years without incident.
The complaint contains no facts that suggest Michaels directed the Aug. 30 explosion at the girl, identified as M.G., who was seated in the first row, Brann wrote.
The judge‰??s opinion gives this account of what occurred that caused M.G. to suffer second-degree burns:
Michaels poured methanol into a container and attempted to ignite it. Unsatisfied with the result, she added methanol and attempted again to light it with a match.
The mixture exploded, causing flaming liquid methanol to spill on the girl‰??s leg and desk.
As Michaels and fellow students attempted to extinguish the flames, it was discovered the classroom fire blanket had never been removed from its shipping container and the room‰??s chemical shower was inoperable.
The suit claimed school nurse Leanna Ryan could not provide M.G. care because she was not a burn specialist. The girl was transported to a hospital.
Green contended Michaels conducted the demonstration despite being aware that organizations including the National Science Teachers Association had urged teachers to halt the use of methanol-based flame tests in open laboratory desks.
The suit, which sought damages in excess of $150,000, was against the district, Michaels, Ryan, district Superintendent Bernard Stellar and high school principal Lisa Varano.
It claimed they created a dangerous situation and deprived M.G. of her right of personal safety. Supervisory liability claims also were made against Stellar and Varano.
Brann declined to accept jurisdiction of negligence and infliction of emotional distress claims brought under state law. That does not prevent Green from pursuing them in state court.
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