Schools face 2 student injury suits

April 15, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

A fractured nose and leg have prompted the parents of two Howard County students to file personal injury suits against the county Board of Education.

In one suit, the mother of a Columbia boy claims that his nose was fractured in 1990 while he was playing catcher without a mask during baseball practice at Hammond High School.

J. Michael Sloneker, a Baltimore attorney representing the county, said neither the school system nor any employees were responsible for the broken nose.

"It was a freak accident," he said. "There's clearly no negligence."

In a second, unrelated suit, a Columbia father claims that a teacher failed to catch his 4-year-old son when he fell from some monkey bars at Dasher Green Elementary School in September and broke his leg.

School representatives could not be reached for comment regarding that case. The teacher named in the suit, Karen Eastham, declined comment.

Both suits were filed late last month.

Brian Triantafillos fractured his nose during junior varsity outfielding practice at Hammond High in March 1990. His coach, William Kundert, was throwing up baseballs and hitting them to outfielders, said Lisa Segel, a Greenbelt attorney representing Brian's mother, Ann Triantafillos.

Brian's job was to catch the balls as outfielders threw them back in. Mr. Kundert told him he didn't need to wear any protective equipment because there would be no pitching, Ms. Segel said.

As an outfielder threw a ball back in, Mr. Kundert tried to knock it down with his bat. The ball ricocheted off and hit Brian in the face, Ms. Segel said.

Brian required surgery and the injury cost the family $7,000 in medical bills, Ms. Segel said. Mrs. Triantafillos is asking for $200,000 in damages.

Mr. Sloneker portrayed the accident a bit differently. He said that Brian and his coach were 15 feet away from each other at the time the ball hit him in the face. Mr. Kundert was standing between home plate and third base; Brian was at the plate.

"Saying that he was playing catcher is probably a loose interpretation," Mr. Sloneker said.

Catching, in another sense, is at issue in the case of Gaston L. Davis of Columbia.

Mr. Davis claims his 4-year-old son, Aaron, broke his leg after a teacher that was spotting him on some monkey bars failed to catch him when he fell.

The monkey bars were about 6 feet high, according to one of Mr. Davis' attorneys, E. Gwinn Miller of Towson.

The injury cost Mr. Davis $18,000 in medical bills, Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Davis is asking for $450,000 in damages.

Mr. Davis claims that the teacher, Ms. Eastham, was negligent. Mr. Miller said that, under Maryland law, 4-year-olds cannot be found negligent.

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