Could School Have Prevented Injury…by a Paintbrush?

Hi Readers! This fsiatzkhhs
is such a disturbing story.
A Scottish boy who was 10 was painting scenery on the ground for a school play back in 2003 when one of the other painters got up, bumping into him. This caused him to fall on another student’s paintbrush, which — this is so horrible — pierced him through the eye, causing blindness in the eye and brain damage.

Now a court has ruled that the teachers at the school should have “foreseen” that such an event was, if not likely, at least POSSIBLE. Wrote the judge:

When one looks at the whole circumstances of the use of the brush, a real risk of injury emerges as foreseeable. A reasonable person in the position of the teachers would have taken steps to prevent that foreseeable risk of harm…”

According to the BBC report, the judge said the painting could have been done with “safer” brushes, and at the kids’ desks, rather than on the ground.

As if the ground is so darn dangerous.

Now, obviously, what’s extremely upsetting about this is not JUST that the school has since outlawed “long” paintbrushes, and now sees painting as a dangerous activity. It’s the notion of “reasonable” foresight and how this encourages a totally paranoid way of thinking. If we are all supposed to have the foresight to prevent all freak accidents that might someday, somehow happen under the most mundane of circumstances, we would have to get rid of every item in every place any child could ever be. Because — hey — a child COULD choke on a lemon, or slip on a slipper, or impale herself on a toothbrush. Let’s ban them all now, before we’re on the line for millions, as this school might be.

What happened to the boy is a tragedy. No need to compound it. — Lenore

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48 Responses to Could School Have Prevented Injury…by a Paintbrush?

  1. Kate November 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    So, are they not allowed to use pencils and pens either?

  2. gramomster November 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Oh man. So tragic and pretty much unforeseeable! And this on the heels of a beautiful blog post by another favorite blogger on doing art with children. In which there are beautiful pictures of a one year old with regular crayons, and a three year old with – wait for it – long paintbrushes. At their very own art table. Exercising free expression. Check it out…

  3. Rare Scenario November 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    the commenter above (Kate) got it right about pens and pencils. Those are not going to be forbidden. And fingers aren’t either.

    That judge’s decision was just plain “stupid.” And although the word “stupid” is politically incorrect, it fits most of the bogus irrational thinking showcased in the news items Lenore brings to our attention.

    I’ve been an artist (a painter) most of my life and have used long-handled paint brushes almost every day for many years. I’ve also known many painters and art teachers, and never once have I heard a story like this. Talk about a RARE mishap!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this boy fails to find employment simply because any employer would be scared to death the guy would sue him at the drop of a hat.

    The BBC article said: “…the accident had left him with no sight in his left eye and he had also suffered “a number of permanent disabilities”, including poor concentration and memory and significant fatigue.”

    I question whether the “permanent disabilities” will be permanent. (Sounds more like something to present in court to win a case.) I wonder if those disabilities are being “Caused” by medications he’s being given? (No mention of meds in the article, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t on something.) Doctors often prescribe meds that do more harm than good. If you Google the phrase: “meds do more harm than good” and read some of the stories, you’ll see what I mean.

  4. Scott November 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    It seems to me that something could only be reasonably foreseen if it is something that has definitely happened before. If it is something that has never happened before in the history of the world, then it is definitely not something one would reasonably foreseen. If it is something that is exceedingly rare and unknown, then also not reasonably foreseen. But if something that is something that happens to a good number of people each year doing a certain thing, it’s possible that sort of thing could be reasonably foreseen.

  5. Fiona November 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    I went to a teacher in-service last year on ‘Duty of Care’, and we were shown a series of cases like this that have happened in Australia (all horrible, unpredictable misfortunes.)

    It was clearly explained to us that due to legal precedent, almost all accidents that occur on school property will likely be judged ‘preventable’. (in other words, the concept of an ‘accident’ doesn’t really exist: they are all preventable teacher errors.)

    We were even advised NOT to work on school grounds after-hours, because if a child climbs a tree outside – and if we happened to see the child on the premises beforehand – we will be deemed negligent for not foreseeing a possible accident!

    Sadly, ‘helicoptering’ is a legal imperative for teachers. That won’t change until/unless new legal precedents are set that define more reasonably what is an ‘accident’, what is ‘foreseeable’, what is a ‘reasonable risk’ etc.

  6. Fiona November 24, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    In fact, now that I think about it, I want a padded classroom, padded paint-brushes, padded safety scissors, and special Michelin-Man suits for all the kids!

  7. stupefied November 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    my childrens school is having a “wheels day”, they are going to bring their rollerblades, but are not able to participate without helmets (which we don’t have).

    I’m all for helmets if they are near the road, but my kids are 4 & 6, they only skate in the school playground & there is NO WAY they will get a head injury from falling over! At the same school, they cut the lower branches off the trees. I’m pretty sure we can all guess at why.


  8. Lola November 24, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    OUCH! Lenore, that was gross! But seriously, it’s the first time I’ve heard that the much-pronosticated “beware-sticks-can-poke-someone’s-eye-out” has actually happened.

  9. anonymousmagic November 24, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    @stupefied: Believe it or not people have died from as little as tripping over a step and landing unfortunately. Whether it’s worth the extra hassle of helmets? I’m not sure, bike helmets aren’t obligatory around here and I seem to have survived just fine.

    Regarding the post: What I find most disturbing is that violent crimes cannot be prosecuted after x years have passed. Apparently, there’s no statute of limitation on lawsuits like this. This happened EIGHT years ago. If they really suffered that much damage, you would’ve expected a lawsuit sooner. Methinks someone is out for money, and it isn’t the kid who was harmed….

  10. Myriam November 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    The poor child. Freak accidents are by definition unforeseeable and unpredictable.

  11. Myriam November 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Sorry should have said unforeseeable and unpreventable.

  12. NineJackNine November 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    These comments sound insensitive. Here’s another article about the case. This one describes more the boys disabilities.

    The boy is now incapable of providing a living for himself. The father says the lawsuit “was the only option left to us to protect Thomas.” It sounds like his parents are seeking damages to provide care for their now disabled son in his adult life.

    I think most of the parents on this site would agree that if there were any cosmic justice, the family of this boy would be provided some means of mitigating such an unfortunate freak accident. But instead of cosmic justice, we have our legal system in and in that system (and England’s) payment of damages requires establishment of liability. This provides incentives for the judge in the case to avoid a common sense ruling (it was a freak accident) to obtain a humane outcome where the family is awarded damages for an unpreventable accident that has destroyed their family.

    I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know how to the law to avoid situations like this, but it’s important to recognize the forces at work in these cases so we can draw the right conclusions. The right conclusion is not “all schools must replace their paintbrushes immediately and never work on the floor!!!!” The right conclusions might be “there is no real risk of this ever happening again, so my school doesn’t need to take drastic action” or it might be: “the next time my school orders paint brushes, let’s not buy the 12 inch ones.” But both of these require rejecting the courts’ decision that this accident could be reaonably foreseen based on a knowledge of the dynamics at play in damage payments.

    I subscribe to this site because I support its agenda of fighting against unreasonable fear and allowing children to explore the world. But please make sure our outrage is appropriately placed — at the legal system that demands judgements like this to correct injustices like befell this family and at the schools that overreact to these judgements.

  13. Sean November 24, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    Here come helmuts and face shields for painting….

  14. Lola November 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    @NineJackNine: I’m really sorry that I sounded insensitive. It wasn’t my intention in any way.
    But I have to disagree with you. I don’t think the horrible thing that happened is an injustice. I think it’s a tragedy. It was no-one’s fault, no-one’s negligence, just a horrible, meaningless accident. I also think it’s dramatic that disabled people who cannot provide for themselves are left unattended.
    But I don’t think the school should be forced to provide for this poor, poor boy. Insurance exists for these things. In Spain, at least, we’ve got a Public Disabilities Pension system (not only for veterans, but for any citizen: widows, orphans, etc.). And there’s always family, friends, neighbours, Foundations, Charities, etc. willing to help people in these instances.
    But in a legal system based on precedents, I think it’s terribly irresponsible to consider the school liable in this case. What abour the kids who were involved? Their parents? The paintbrush manufacturers? The manufacturers of the sneakers that made the boy trip over in the first place?
    Our outrage is directed towards the fact that the judge said something that’s a plain, simple LIE (that this was forseeable and therefore preventable). A well-intentioned lie, I’m sure, but a lie nevertheless. And a lie that’s detrimental for someone involved who shouldn’t pay. And a lie that sets a dangerous precedent, stating that any tragedy must have a culprit.
    Sorry for the rant, but that’s how I feel.

  15. Janiemc November 24, 2010 at 8:44 pm #


    I couldn’t have worded it better. Somethimes we do have to consider the reasons people take certain actions. It sometime will be for the very best of reasons.

  16. anonymousmagic November 24, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    @NineJackNine: That article changes things. I retract what I said about the parents.

    Still, this sort of thing makes me glad I don’t live in the US. Over here, disabled people are provided for if such a horrific accident were to happen. I’m sad that the parents have no other choice to sue to provide for their son. They should have other options available to them.

  17. Jules November 24, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    The judge claims that the teacher should have at least seen this was possible. No kidding. Where’d they find him, Scottland Yard? ANYTHING is possible!
    Probable? Not so much. If we sit around figuring out every possible scenario, we’re going to end up with a society that doesn’t have much of anything…

  18. Uly November 24, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    If ninejacknine is right, it seems like the problem is with support for disabled individuals… something that isn’t limited to the UK, unfortunately. (And support doesn’t have to mean cash payments, it can mean support in getting and keeping a meaningful job.)

    OUCH! Lenore, that was gross! But seriously, it’s the first time I’ve heard that the much-pronosticated “beware-sticks-can-poke-someone’s-eye-out” has actually happened.

    I did once, when I was in high school. Two boys had cut school (so I was told) and on the way home (or wherever) decided to have a swordfight with their umbrellas, leading to one injuring the other. And the parents sued under the grounds that the school is liable for accidents from the time the kid leaves the house until they arrive back home, but the school won because (I believe, I’m saying this from memory here) the judge ruled that with teenagers especially that only counts if they’re actually where they’re supposed to be.

  19. ninejacknine November 24, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    I just wanted to say how gratifiying it is that commenters at this site are so reasonable and respectful Also, I largely agree with every response to my post so far–especially that some sort of no fault insurance (either private or public) should support victims of such accidents rather than holding the school district liable and forcing them to pay damages.

  20. dmd November 24, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    So sad. I feel bad for everyone involved. Stuff happens. The alternative is that kids never crawl, never play, never handle any object but foam.

    I wonder if the judge has children. Or if she is a helicopter parent.

  21. April November 24, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    Did the paintbrush pierce more than just his eye? I work with someone who has sight in only one eye and it doesn’t seem to have stopped her doing anything. There seems to be more to the story… and to tell the child that he can’t do something because of his injury is very limiting to him. What about supporting his dreams and finding out what he can truly accomplish?

  22. Larry Harrison November 24, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

    @NineJackNine and @anonymousmagic I have read the comments etc, but I still fault the parents somewhat with regards to a suit being submitted by them. The situation may be that only by suing can they provide for their son, and by all means, what happened is so terrible & for that they deserve our sympathy-but none of that means they “have no choice.” Of course they do. You have the choice to do the RIGHT thing and to not do the WRONG thing.

    As is the case with many such suits when they are filed & the wrong ruling is made, it sets a precedent which can have chilling consequences. The pools without a diving board, the merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters missing from the playgrounds, the new gasoline cans you can barely use with all that excessive safety junk cluttering up the nozzle–all exist on account of wrong rulings to suits which never should’ve been filed, in my view. This is no different, the parents’ plight and pain is really bad I agree, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    I really fault the judge, too, for the horrible ruling. He or she needs to be voted out of office however it can be done.


  23. Uly November 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    April, it sounds like it may have done some brain damage. His parents say he has poor balance and coordination now, and that he didn’t really understand about the trial, which suggests that he’s lost a lot more than the vision in one eye.

    However, it’s hard to say what the kid actually is capable of doing with accommodations and support. It is much cheaper to help disabled people get and keep jobs than to just pay for their care – and it’s simply better, morally.

  24. Bill November 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm #


    “So, are they not allowed to use pencils and pens either?”

    That is on the way. From UPI today: “‘A Massachusetts school district superintendent said a memo banning sixth graders from carrying pencils was written without district approval. North Brookfield School District interim Superintendent Gordon Noseworthy said Wendy Scott, one of two sixth-grade teachers at North Brookfield Elementary School, did not get approval from administrators before sending the memo to all sixth-grade parents, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported Thursday. The memo said students would no longer be allowed to bring writing implements to school. It said pencils would be provided for students in class and any students caught with pencils or pens after Nov. 15 would face disciplinary action for having materials ‘to build weapons.'”

    While a little public exposure got this rescinded, it boggles the mind to try to visualize the mental processes (or lack thereof) of the teacher writing the order.

  25. Ann in L.A. November 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Under this standard, how could we possibly keep using electricity? I can foresee a thousand ways someone could get hurt or killed with such a dangerous thing running through every single wall in the developed world.

  26. Uly November 24, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    LOL, really Bill? I can search for it, but do you have an exact link?

  27. Ellis November 25, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Here’s a good one:

    “Insanity! Teacher Bans Students From Bringing Pencils To School”

  28. EricS November 25, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    Utter stupidity. This guy is judge?! By his ruling ANYTHING is possible. Waking up in the morning and going to the bathroom can lead to death or disability. Eating at the table for breakfast can be just as harmful. Drinking can cause injury as well. I’m sure everyone here gets the point. Yet, the most obvious and most preventable are continued to keep going, like driving. But you don’t see cars being outlawed do you.

    In regards to the parents suing to take care of their son, I agree with Larry’s comments. It’s sad, and the family should get assistance to care for their son. But to sue to gain monetary gain, for an accident that was no one’s fault, is unethical. It’s people like this that work the system (as good intention as it may be), make it worse in the long run. Because there are people who sue for no other reason than to make extra cash. The more people sue, the more rules and regulations (as absurd as they are) these sued institutions make. The more rules and regulations there are, the more others have to suffer by inadvertently “breaking” them. Again, a vicious cycle of irrationality where some always ends up being the loser. Most of the time unfairly.

  29. SKL November 25, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    What’s wrong here is that people use lawsuits to solve problems that aren’t anyone’s fault.

    Although I’m not a fan of the popular national health schemes, I believe that in cases of catastrophic illness/injury, the state/feds should assume all the medical and educational responsibility. This would be cheaper than lawsuits, and would prevent the creation of legal precedent that leads to ridiculous policies.

  30. BrianJ November 25, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    I’m very sorry to hear of that boy’s unfortunate accident. It is a tragedy for all involved.

    It’s a large tragedy for a small number of people. I say that not to minimize it, but to point out that reacting to an accidental, large tragedy for a small number of people by creating an intentional small tragedy for a large number of people is really stupid.

    And restricting art for all (or even many) school kids because of this accident would be a tragedy. For all of us.

  31. Uly November 25, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    SKL, the flaw there is that they live in the UK. They already have socialized health care. And there’s no argument that I’ve seen in either argument that his medical care was inadequate or mismanaged.

  32. Dragonwolf November 25, 2010 at 2:39 am #

    Ann in L.A. – My electronics class had a Jacob’s Ladder and a small(ish) version of a static field generator. We did stuff like create human power wire chains with the generator and set paper on fire with the Jacob’s Ladder. One year, someone set the trash can on fire, because the paper was still smoldering! Oh, and we also had those little solder kits that allowed us to make things like mini flash bulbs (like camera flashes) and whatnot. All the metal was exposed, so if you touched it while the capacitor was charged, you got something like 25,000 volts go through your hand (and for those that say that’s impossible, it is entirely possible and no, it won’t necessarily do major damage, what does damage is the amperage, which was very low on the kits, you don’t even feel low-amp electricity on your skin until you’re pushing a thousand or more volts).

    Yeah, those people would have a field day with my school.

  33. Juliet Robertson November 25, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    This is a tragedy. For the child, his family, the school, local authority and the wider Scottish public – we have different laws here in Scotland to England.

    Normally local authorities will settle out of court rather than go to trial because of the insurance system that encourages this approach. North Lanark has some of the most stringent health and safety practices in Scotland. I know this from my own work where North Lanark has led the way in terms of Pre- school risk assessments, consideration of health and safety of individuals.

    As a result I’m sure there must be lots of ins and outs to this case. I do know because of another tragedy that caused a staff member’s husband to become quadriplegic that although our NHS will pay for medical treatment, the care of people left disabled is not state funded in most situations. Any adjustments, for example, to a house to accommodate a disability, must be born by the family. Thus going to court to get compensation to pay for this is the main option if one does not have the finances. It takes years for the process to happen and families live in complete poverty and stress through the process.

    So yes the questions need to be asked about how these situations can be better managed so that the needs of the child, family and wider society are all met equitably.

    It is also a shame that such cases are given such high media profile and thereby increasing the scaremongering in schools where staff live in fear of this sort of event and the very real percussions when something goes wrong.

  34. SKL November 25, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    I really meant to say that the gov’t should, in catastrophic cases like this, take care of all medical, educational, AND support expenses. I think that, theoretically, in the US, a disabled person (who cannot work) would receive an appropriate education as a child, and also government support for life; plus medical care if the family was (or became) destitute or low-income. Of course, the programs aren’t always well administered, but a lawsuit for a freak accident only layers tragedy upon tragedy.

  35. EricS November 25, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    I agree with SKL. No one ever intends to be disabled for life to get some benefits from the government. Is it really worth it to become quadriplegic just to get home care? I don’t think anyone would say so. So it’s not like they are trying to milk the system. With official medical records, and assessment why shouldn’t the government support disabled people who cannot otherwise fend for themselves, especially when their family is at ropes end. Millions of dollars are wasted every year on the needless. And these people I’m sure have been paying their taxes. Why not see some of that come back for their well being.

  36. Fiona November 25, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    @ninejacknine I’d have to say I also retract the somewhat frivolous comments I made above about safety-proofing the classroom. It is not a joking matter when this boy’s life has been so terribly affected.

    It is sad that the family do need to take legal action to cover for the costs of supporting their son. Perhaps in future the way forward will be ‘no fault’ insurance coverage that enables compensation for injuries without the need for legal action.

  37. owen59 November 25, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    What I really don’t get in the justice systems around the western world is the right for a single person to make a judgement of this sort. In any other profession, this would be seen as being outside of their competency level and, per force of professional insight, the judge should limit their judgement. The social consequences and support system is similarly limited as several here have alluded. It is a test to the sort of society we want to live. That the vast majority of people (especially quite intelligent and educated) are acquiescent to the system, is more a sign of the tendency for people to herd mentality. This is not a bad thing in itself – we all desire the sense of comfort that group belonging brings. But belonging without critical thinking is also the cause of the folly of many great social and political fiascos. We should be very concerned about the social cul de sacs we might, with all good intention, be driving down.

  38. bmj2k November 25, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    One day all children will be encased in their own totally safe bubbles.

  39. Uly November 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    SKL, ideally it should, I agree with you (but then, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool bleeding heart liberal, and that’s the truth!) but I’m not sure it works as well as it’s even supposed to. I have seriously and not so seriously disabled friends in both countries (and in Canada as well) and the various programs to help out seem… poorly run at best.

    However, since we agree on the main point (this should be run better so people don’t have to make lawsuits just to take care of themselves or their children) I don’t see the point in arguing the details. I mean, it’s *fun* to argue the details, sure, but it’s a bit silly.

  40. Jen November 26, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    I’ll begin by saying that I feel horrible for the boy and his family, and I wholly agree with several people on here who think that people who are disabled should have better support from the government, in any country. I am not trying in any way to make light of the tragedy that this boy and his family suffered.

    I’m also going to say that the judge in this case is a bleeding idiot. I don’t know of any normal person who sits and contemplates all the bizarre and unlikely ways that a person could get injured with *insert object here*. I mean, seriously. Yeah, some potential injuries can be obvious. Bunsen burners in science labs need special caution, as fire can be dangerous. But only, as my husband put it, the kind of twisted people who work on movies like “Saw”, would think “Gee, a kid could accidentally have that paint brush handle jammed into their eye and go blind and sustain brain damage. Now that the thought is there, though, a kid in a chair could be bumped into from behind, fall forward and have a paintbrush hit their eye and cause serious damage. A kid could have an allergy to the contents of the paint. A million unlikely, unforeseeable accidents could happen. Unfortunately, this means that instead of treating it as a tragic accident, school districts will start trying to prevent all of these unforeseeable accidents, therefore limiting the experiences students have, such as cutting out painting and other art, or recess, or so many other things.

  41. Andrew November 26, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    This is a tragedy for all concerned, but the liability issue turns on whether the teachers were negligent because they failed to take steps to avoid an outcome that was reasonably foreseeable. That is an objective test – would a reasonable person anticipate the outcome – but it is also rather elastic, glossed in some cases as “possible” and others as “likely”.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing – the very fact that this accident happened, and then the local authority took steps to avoid it happening again, can be taken as an indication that similar steps could have been taken before it happened – but is there really is a significant risk of penetrating injury if schoolchildren are allowed to kneel down to use paintbrushes to paint (presumably large) items on the floor?

    In the end, the payment will be picked up by the insurers, and socialised via increased premiums, but the real damage is the risk-aversion that will spread. Life is a dangerous activity, and bad things can happen even when nobody is at fault.

  42. Lisa, New Jersey November 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    This whole thing smell like lawyers, lawsuits, and money.

  43. chavisory November 27, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    Good gods, you cannot paint stage scenery at your desk!

    What a horrible, horrible accident. But accidents are a risk of living.

  44. escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw November 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    I know Im a little late, but I think most people would be lying to say they wouldn’t sue if they thought it was the only way to support a family member after a freak accident. I also think many people would be lying if they said they wouldn’t sue if they thought a payout was possible, esp a big one.

    It’s all good and well to sit around and talk about how suing over freak accidents that are no ones fault is unethical and causes problems for society. I think most people even agree, in theory, that it’s unethical. When it happens to you, it stops being a theoretical issue and becomes a personal one. This is where ethics for societal good compete what’s best for one person/family. VERY FEW people will turn down an opportunity for a large settlement, since it is likely to make their family more secure and better off, even at the expense of others. It’s not in an individuals best interest to turn down anything that will improve their life, unless it comes with penalties that are not only much steeper, but immediate.

    If Im being honest with myself, I know that I would do the same thing as that family. I know this means the taxpayers are stuck with the bill, and kids will likely be restricted because of it. I am a pretty ethical and moral person, in general, as are most people, but self interest overrules ethics in these instances. And I saw many posts also empathizing, and admitting that the writer would do the same. Other people agreed that sueing was wrong, but necessary.

    For this reason, it would be in everyones interest to have a mechanism in place to pay and assist people in situations like these. Most people do agree that the victim and their family shouldn’t be left with a huge burden because of a random accident. It is true that no one REALLY deserves a huge chunk of cash just because random, tragic, things happened. That’s life, right? But as a society, we DO expect to be compensated, and are not going to give that up.

    No fault insurance, taxation for a federal program, or simply strengthening the safety net we already have would go a long way to solving this.

    And Limiting kids activities over freak accidents is not helpful. Afterall, statistically, what are the chances of this ever happening again? Especially at that school?

    In the US, a lawsuit IS truly necessary to pay for medical care, and the safety net for victims of accidents or disabilities is thin, and shrinking every year. In countries with national health care, and a welfare state system (like Netherlands) this isn’t as much of an issue

  45. SKL November 28, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    Escaped to Mexico, I beg to differ with you. Of all the people I know well enough to speak for, none has ever pursued an opportunistic lawsuit, even though many (including myself) have had the chance to do so. The only time I’ve seen acquaintances pursue lawsuits was in cases such as employment discrimination (2) and a severe at-fault accident (1) where someone had been financially harmed and recouped basically the amount they had lost (or less). We hear of lawsuits in the news all the time, but most people consider them unethical if not immoral, other than if needed to recoup losses from someone who either intentionally or very recklessly, and directly, caused harm. So no, I don’t believe that most people would sue the school over a freak accident.

    I also disagree with your comment that “in the US, a lawsuit is truly necessary to pay for medical care.” Even before the recent health care legislation, about 90% of Americans were covered by health insurance or Medicaid. An accident / catastrophic illness can make most folks eligible for Medicaid if they weren’t already eligible or insured. And, whether they are already on the rolls of Medicaid or not, they are always able to get high-quality emergency care. I know several people who had no wealth and no health insurance, yet were cared for on a long-term basis (some at world-renowned health facilities) after catastrophic illnesses / accidents, at no cost to them. In the case of kids with disabilities, they are also eligible for considerable free therapies and other educational interventions until they are, I believe, 21 – and these are not limited to poor families.

    Lawsuits over pure accidents in the US are usually pursued by wealthy people who have insurance. They usually want extra money to give the victim a better deal than the public health / education systems or insurance will give them – just like they would want their kids to get a better deal in all aspects of life. In a case like the paintbrush case here, generally the lawsuit would probably be lost, so even an ambulance-chaser lawyer wouldn’t waste his time on it. But a lawyer who was paid by the hour might.

  46. Jules November 28, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    @ninejacknine: I picked up a copy of the local paper the other day, and was reading a story about a family with a little boy in a neighboring town who is disabled. He has muscular distrophy. While it has been some time since he was diagnosed, it was only recently, at the age of ten, that he spoke the words his mom was dreading: “I don’t think I can walk anymore.” And so the mother began the task of moving his bedroom to the first floor, and lifting the 100lb. pre-teen in and out of bed. In the article, it describes her worries about making her home handicap accessible to accomodate him as he got older.
    Well, one day, she woke to find the folks in her neighborhood on her front lawn with tools and lumber. They were all there to pitch in. The helped plan out and build ramps, and add all the amenities that the young boy requires now that his illness is progressing.

    I think a BIG part of the problem with society these days is we don’t hear these stories enough. Stories about community, about pitching in and helping each other in times of need. I think it’s disgusting that a family should feel forced to sue over a freak accident and find fault where the is none, all so that there son can be taken care of. What if he had just fallen ill? Who do you sue? God?

  47. pentamom November 30, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    “Most people do agree that the victim and their family shouldn’t be left with a huge burden because of a random accident.”

    But you think it’s perfectly fine if other people, whether taxpayers or those running or working for a private institution are left with a burden, regardless of how well off they are, whether an increase in taxes, being forced to go out of business, or losing their jobs because someone who is actually not responsible for something is being forced to pay for it?

    That doesn’t sound “generally ethical and moral” to me, although it’s a common ethical blindspot when people forget that “institutions” are made up of people, many of whom can’t really spare what it would cost to cover a lawsuit like that.

  48. wendy December 1, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    Perhaps the parents are liable for the care of their child because the fact that their child may become disabled in some way is certainly foreseeable.

    They should have taken the responsibility of insurance vs. burdening the school district with their expenses.

    Very sad indeed. Just a reminder of how random life is and how most certainly we will spend all our time worrying about the wrong things.