Hudgell Solicitors has secured damages for a school pupil who suffered burns to his face during a chemistry lesson.
Staff at the school involved failed to arrange for the 17-year-old pupil to have hospital treatment and took more than an hour to contact his parents and inform them of the accident.
When the boy’s mother saw the extent of his injuries she rushed him to their local A&E where his wounds were washed and placed under running water for almost an hour to ensure all acid was removed.
The accident happened when the pupil had been heating liquids including acids over a Bunsen burner as part of his lesson. The container holding the liquid fell onto the flame when plastic grips melted, causing it to splash up into his face. He suffered permanent scarring to his right cheek as a result.
A damages settlement has now been agreed through insurers acting on behalf of the private school, following legal action led by Leeds-based solicitor Katy Nelson.
As part of a legal claim it was alleged the school, in the south of England, had breached its duty of care in exposing the pupil to risk of injury by failing to ensure safe and adequate equipment was used for the experiment, highlighting the use of plastic grips over an open flame.
It was also alleged the school failed to ensure proper supervision or control and failed to treat the pupil in an appropriate manner after the accident by not sending him to A&E.
Mother was ‘horrified’ to see extent of burn injuries to son’s face
The boy’s mother said she was appalled with the slow response of staff at the school and its failure to arrange appropriate medical care.
“The reality is the school were negligent in allowing my son to suffer this horrific injury to his face and then, after it had happened, their response was poor,” she said.
“I’m pretty sure they panicked and, whether deliberate or not, played the incident down despite the serious injuries suffered.
“It was more than an hour after he’d suffered the burns that they called me, and when I got to the school they were making out that it wasn’t too bad. My son already had his face bandaged up and they said they had bathed the burn with water.
“He said he wanted to go home and because of what I had been told I wasn’t expecting it to be too bad, but when we removed the bandages I was horrified to see how red his face was and the blisters across his cheek and his mouth.
“His skin had been burned away and he was in pain because the acid hadn’t been properly washed off. It was still burning him.”
The mother took her son to the local minor injuries unit where it was confirmed he had suffered chemical burns to his face. He was referred to a specialist burns unit and the family were told the acid had not been washed off properly at the school and was still burning his skin.
She says the family took time before deciding to launch legal action, but did so because they felt the school had to be held responsible.
“Afterwards the school wrote to us several times apologising and essentially asking us to draw a line under the matter,” she said.
“We thought we needed to seek legal advice because of the suffering our son had gone through. It was totally unacceptable not to arrange for him to go straight to hospital. It was only a stone’s throw away which makes you question why they didn’t.
“There was little acceptance from the school that they had done wrong and they dragged the case out, denying responsibility until it was all set to go to court.
“It was only then that we got a settlement offer.”
Solicitor says failure to send pupil to hospital was ‘inexcusable’
Solicitor Katy Nelson, who specialises in personal injury claims, represented the boy and his family in the case and said: “We are pleased that, after two years of denying being at fault for the injuries suffered, the school has now finally agreed to pay damages to our client.
“Schools have a clear duty to have all the correct safety measures and procedures in place when students are using potentially harmful substances as part of their lessons. In this case, faulty equipment caused the injury and then the school’s response in terms of providing medical care fell well short of that expected.
“Had our client not asked for his mother to be called the delay in getting him to hospital and having the right treatment to his burns could have been much longer. Not arranging him to go to hospital having suffered such obvious serious injury was inexcusable.
“It was a very frightening experience and an incident which has left our client permanently scarred to his face, although thankfully the scar has now faded significantly. We hope he is now able to put this behind him, and that this case has resulted in improved safety and accident response measures at the school involved.”