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Man Sues Over High School Shop Class Injury

By Betty Wang, JD on November 08, 2013 12:07 PM

A former high school student injured by a band saw in shop class has filed a lawsuit -- five years after the injury. Ryan Hughes claims that in 2008, the saw snagged his clothes and then pulled him into the blade, the South Jersey Times reports.

Hughes claims that there was neither a guard on the blade nor floor markings to indicate a safety zone. He now is left with limited elbow movement, nerve damage, and permanent scarring.

New Jersey's statute of limitations for filing injury lawsuits, however, is two years. How does this affect Hughes' five-year-old injury claim?

Time Limits for a Minor's Injuries

A statute of limitations establishes a specified period of time in which a legal cause of action can be brought. These limitations vary by state and by type of case (civil or criminal). In general, though, the idea is to ensure fairness -- so the party being sued isn't taken by surprise 10 years after an injury, for example -- and to prevent stale claims from being brought forth.

But despite New Jersey's statute of limitations for an injury claim, how is Hughes still able to pursue legal action for his high school shop class injury?

Typically, the statute of limitations for injury to a minor does not begin to run until he or she reaches the age of 18. Under New Jersey law, this holds as well -- adults are able to sue within two years from the date of the injury, while minors have within two years of their 18th birthday.

Hughes' 18th birthday was in 2011, the Times reports, so it looks as though he met the deadline.

What Hughes Has to Prove

Hughes' lawsuit names as defendants the school, the board of education, the shop class teacher, and the band saw manufacturer.

The manufacturer of the saw could potentially be held liable based on a number of theories, including inadequate safety warnings, if proven. As for Hughes' former school, it can potentially be held liable for certain injuries if a court finds there was negligence.

The basis for a negligence suit, which Hughes is alleging here, requires the school to owe a duty to a student and to breach that duty, thereby causing the injury. Plaintiffs also have to prove damages such as medical bills; it's not clear how much Hughes is seeking in his lawsuit.

Neither Hughes' lawyer nor the school could be reached for comment by the South Jersey Times.

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