Supreme Court Rules School Not Liable For Rock Springs Student Who Fell On Ice & Suffered Brain Injury

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A student who suffered a brain injury after slipping on ice at a Rock Springs elementary school failed to prove negligence on the part of Sweetwater County School District No. 1 caused the accident, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.

Justices on Monday upheld a lower court’s decision dismissing the lawsuit filed on behalf of Gabriel Miller stemming from the January 2017 accident, finding he failed to prove that pipes placed alongside Lincoln Elementary school to divert water from the building caused the fall that injured him.

“The record was simply devoid of evidence that the placement of the pipes contributed to Gabriel’s fall and injuries,” said the ruling, written by Justice Michael Davis.

According to the ruling, on Jan. 9, 2017, the school’s principal noticed water draining from the school had created a puddle inside the building and a patch of ice on a sidewalk outside the building.

PVC pipes were installed outside the building and across a walkway to divert water from the building.

On Jan. 10, 2017, Miller, then 7, was returning from lunch recess when he fell. He told his mother he struck his head on one of the PVC pipes.

Although the boy appeared to be fine immediately after the incident, it was later determined he had suffered a “brain bleed.” He was taken to Salt Lake City for observation, but surgery was not required.

Gabriel’s attorney filed a lawsuit against the school district about two years later, alleging the exposed PVC pipes created a dangerous condition on the school grounds.

A state district court sided with the school district in its arguments there was no evidence the boy fell while trying to get around the pipes, noting he said he slipped on ice

The Supreme Court found while there was testimony to indicate Gabriel did hit his head on a pipe, there was no evidence the placement of the pipes caused his fall.

“The district court therefore properly granted the school district summary judgment on the question of causation,” the opinion said.

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