Judge dismisses suit by researcher injured in explosion at Hopkins lab

August 08, 1996|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

A judge yesterday threw out the case of a former Johns Hopkins University doctoral candidate who sued the university and the company that sponsored a lab experiment he was conducting after he was severely injured in a 1993 chemical explosion.

Hearing a motion filed by the defendants' attorneys, the judge said Bogdan Dabrowski was not entitled to further financial redress for injuries to his sight and hearing because he received money for medical expenses and lost wages from the state Workers' Compensation Commission.

Dabrowski's lawyers said they will appeal the ruling immediately.

Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said the university is "satisfied with the judge's decision."

Dabrowski, claiming negligence because he says the experiment was inherently unsafe, sued Hopkins, a professor there, Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and an SAIC scientist for $60 million.

The experiment was sponsored by a Navy contract through SAIC, an SAIC spokeswoman said.

The accident happened in March 1993. Dabrowski, who specialized in studying materials with an electron microscope, was working about 9: 30 p.m. analyzing microscopic diamond particles when a boiling mixture of acid and man-made diamond dust exploded in his hand.

The explosion burned and cut his face through the protective screen and hood he was wearing. Whether Dabrowski was wearing mandatory protective goggles at the time is unclear.

Dabrowski, who lost a substantial portion of his eyesight and hearing, attended yesterday's hearing wearing dark shades and blinders over his eyes. Tiny shards of glass are still embedded in his eyes, his lawyer said.

The Polish native was an employee and graduate student at Hopkins in 1993. The dispute over his status at the time of the explosion is central to his case. If he was a student, as his lawyer claims, he might be entitled to more than compensation for lost wages and medical fees. But, as an employee, under state law, he would be ineligible to sue his employer for more than workers' compensation.

Marvin Ellin, Dabrowski's attorney, says that because Dabrowski conducted the experiment after his regular working hours and because he was not paid overtime -- which would have extended his hours as an employee -- he was not technically in the employ of the university at the time. But Hopkins maintains he was a university employee because he received a $14,000-a-year stipend, O'Shea said.

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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