A Nassau County child was seated at a computer at Yulee Primary School in March 2019 when he pulled on a desk drawer and the entire table fell over on him. Actions taken and not taken that day, and the child’s injuries, led his parents to file suit in the 4th Judicial Circuit against the Nassau County School District.
This week, the family’s attorney, Douglas Wyler of the Fernandina Beach firm Jacobs Scholz & Wyler, filed a motion asking the judge in the case to set it for trial. Wyler expects the trial to last three days, according to the motion.
The boy, seven years old at the time, was in his first-grade class. While seated, “upon pulling the keyboard out from the desk drawer, the desk fell over with its entire weight landing directly on the Plaintiff’s left index finger, thereby crushing Plaintiff’s finger between the desk and the floor and causing him to sustain serious permanent injuries and deformity of the index finger on his dominant hand,” according to the complaint.
The injury “required Life Flight air transport from Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital Jacksonville to UF Health Gainesville for proper treatment and care.”
The child’s parents, John and Megan Cagle, allege through their attorney that School District staff operated in breach of their responsibilities to maintain a safe environment.
The complaint states that School District staff failed by “creating a hazardous condition by placing an unsafe, unstable, and hazardous desk in an area where students were allowed to utilize it,” not making the area safe “when (they) knew or should have known of the hazard,” not warning the child and other students of the hazards, and not properly supervising “students entrusted to them to ensure their safety and prohibit them from coming into contact with hazardous conditions on the premises.”
The School Board, in its response, admitted the injury but not that anyone employed by the District breached their duties of care for the students and for maintaining a safe environment. The responsibility for the child’s injury rests with the child, the Board’s attorneys argued.
“Plaintiff ought not to recover from the School Board, or in the alternative, Plaintiff’s recovery should be diminished for that, at the time and place alleged, Plaintiff himself was negligent in failing to observe and avoid the hazards alleged to have caused this injury,” according to the School Board’s response. “Such negligence was either the sole legal cause or was a contributing cause of the action and injury and damages claimed herein.”
The Board also is claiming sovereign immunity, a protection couched in the legal concept that the government can’t be sued without its consent.