WA Supreme Court

OLYMPIA – The state Supreme Court, reversing an appeals court decision, ruled that the Moses Lake School District was not responsible for a student’s injuries in a woodshop class at the high school.

Heidi Jo Hendrickson filed a lawsuit against the school district in 2010 to recover for injuries she suffered while operating a radial table saw in a woodshop class. A jury in Grant County Superior Court found that the Moses Lake School District was negligent but that was not the “proximate cause of Hendrickson’s injuries.

Hendrickson won an appeal and the case was remanded for a new trial, arguing the trial court erred in instructing the jury that the school district “owed a duty of ordinary care to Hendrickson instead of a heightened duty of care,” according to court records.

Hendrickson was a freshman at the high school when her hand came in contact with the table saw, severely cutting her thumb, resulting in partial amputation. Hendrickson sued, alleging the district was liable for negligence by shop teacher Kevin Chestnut, who was supervising other students in an area outside the room and could not see the table saw area.

In Thursday’s decision, the Supreme Court justices ruled school districts “are held to a standard of ordinary care to protect their students from foreseeable harm,” according to court records.”

The justices stated they have long held “school districts have the duty to exercise such care as an ordinarily responsible and prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.”

The Supreme Court ruling reinstates the jury’s verdict.

(9) comments


There wouldn’t be a single vocational class offered in any school district if they were responsible for every accident that happened in these classes. I was the TA in multiple metal and wood shop classes and before any student used a single tool, they had to pass a safety test on that tool. I also know for a FACT, that Mr. Chestnut does not take these safety tests lightly! Taking responsibility for your own actions may be the most important lesson here. I can just imagine opinionscrossroads trying to sue the school district because his child fell off a ladder in the process of vandalizing the school! Let’s do our part and make sure we instill common sense in our own children and not rely solely on their teachers.


Im pretty sure the shop teacher taught safety as they said he did. Accidents happen. The only thing this girl would have learned if she won is that she should blame others for her actions. However, she now learns the valuable lesson of taking responsibility for herself and there are consequences for what she may or may not have done. We cant just blame others when something like this happens. The girl should have paid attention when being taught about safety and/or the parents should have known their child was not at an age where they know how to be responsible.. I know if my child wasnt mature enough to take a class where fingers could possibly be cut off, i wouldn't let him take that class until he was. And being the childs parent, i would know my child well enough to make that decision. Im glad the child wasnt able to blame someone else for her negligence. She will learn better morals and standards by accepting responsibility, whether by choice or if it was forced upon...obviously the parents werent teaching her correctly so the courts had to...


Do they teach "COMMON SENSE" anymore???
If she didn't know how to work the damn thing then why is she messing with it in the first place???


Please read the entire article before you comment. Thumb, not hand.
My own son went through classes with Mr. Chestnut. I never felt worried about his safety because of the safety Chestnut taught.


I stand corrected on part of her THUMB down to the first joint and not her hand. My argument still stands the same though. Someone got injured, lost a body part, and the Moses Lake School District just shrugs it off. I still ask how you'd react if your son lost a limb while at a school class.. Would you act as dad of the year and say, "Ooh son -- this is finally put to rest and it's just your own fault you lost a body part".. I am sure glad you have faith in the Moses Lake School District as much as you do but oh wait a minute you were one of the loudest supporters of the school bond saying we needed a new high school. Why did you say this?? Because the school was to small for how many students were there and the classes were just too big for the teachers.. Hmmm Obviously not the shop class that your son was in though, Right?? It was just the right size and they had more than enough supervision and nothing bad could, would, or ever did happen, Right?? Well like you said, Glad to know this if finally put to rest to everyone now knows if your son or daughter cuts off a body part, the school will not have any responsibility for it. But rest assured 74USN94 can assure everyone his son made it out alive and yours has a pretty good chance of getting out alive too and even with most (but not all) of their body parts.


It's not the school district that made the decision. It was a jury trial. Do you really trust your fellow Washingtonians that little? It would appear that there were mitigating circumstances which led to the jury's decision.


Finally put to rest. Mr. Chestnut always taught safety first before any student allowed to use equipment.


So your position is; that a 14 year old who might not have ever been around dangerous power tools, it is her own fault she used an extremely dangerous power tool without any adult supervision in the room??? Obviously this court case is over but at the end of the day, a little girl lost her hand when she didn't have to and the Moses Lake School District just shrugs it off like her losing a hand means nothing.. NICE just NICE.. I wonder what everyone would say if it was your child who lost their limb.. Oh I know, "Finally put to rest"!!


Did she lose a hand? Looks to me like she lost part of her thumb.

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