Student Who Suffered Burns In Chemistry Class Awarded $59M
A jury awarded $59+ million in damages to Alonzo Yanes on Monday, an ex-Manhattan high school student who suffered severe burns after a chemistry class experiment went wrong in January of 2014.
Yanes is now 21-years-old and he’s set to have that judgment paid out by the city of New York. His attorney, Ben Rubinowitz, said that the exact awarded total is $59,170,000. That decision came after a four-week-long trial. Rubinowitz explained that half of that sum was for past pain and suffering, while the other half is for future pain and suffering.
The former student took the stand to recount the incident on June 19, which he says was caused by his teacher at Beacon High School.
“She poured the methanol into a container, and then without any warning, there was a big whoosh sound — a giant fireball had erupted from the jug,” he recalled, according to The NY Post. “I saw flashes of blue and orange. I heard my classmates go, ‘Whoa!’ and scream.
“I reflexively put my arms out … to kind of shield myself from the flames that were shooting out towards me.”
Yanes continued on, stating that he attempted to stop, drop, and roll, but that that failed to deter the flames.
Rubinowitz explained that his firm had alleged negligence on the part of the Department of Education, along with Yanes’ teacher before, during, and after the disaster occurred.
The spokesman for the New York City Law Department, Nick Paolucci, released a statement about this situation that said:
“The well-being of students is the top priority of the Department of Education and this chemistry experiment is no longer used in any classroom as a result of this tragic accident. While we respect the jury’s verdict, we are weighing our legal options to reduce the award to an amount which reasonably compensates Mr. Yanes for his injuries.”
In Yanes’ lawsuit, he said the experiment that led to his burns used methanol and involved mineral salts being set on fire. It was allegedly conducted even though the U.S. Chemical Safety Board sent warnings to the local education department saying that it was dangerous. The suit also claims that students weren’t properly shielded, which would seem to be backed up by Yanes’ injuries.
The defense countered by saying the fire was accidental, but in the end, they lost.
Yanes ended up suffering third-degree burns to roughly one-third of his body because of this classroom experiment gone wrong.