On Friday, Newport News, Virginia, Circuit Court Judge Matthew Hoffman ruled that a teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old student in January can proceed with a $40 million negligence lawsuit against the Newport News Public School system.
According to the Associated Press, lawyers for the school system tried to block the lawsuit brought by Abby Zwerner because it already provides workers compensation that provides almost 10 years of pay and lifetime medical care for on-the-job injuries.
Zwerner's attorneys argued that getting shot “was not an actual risk of her job,” so workers comp doesn't apply.
In his ruling, Judge Hoffman agreed and said that her injuries “did not arise out of her employment” so they don't “fall within the exclusive provisions of workers’ compensation coverage.” He added, “The danger of being shot by a student is not one that is peculiar or unique to the job of a first-grade teacher.”
In a statement, Zwerner's attorneys Diane Toscano, Jeffrey Breit, and Kevin Biniazan said, “This victory is an important stepping stone on our path towards justice for Abby.” They added, “We are eager to continue our pursuit of accountability and a just, fair recovery.”
“No teacher expects to stare down the barrel of a gun held by a six-year-old student,” the attorneys concluded.
The lawsuit stems from an incident at Richneck Elementary School where the boy pulled out his mother's gun and shot Zwerner in the chest when she tried to confiscate it. The then 25-year-old suffered a collapsed lung in addition to other traumatic injuries as a result.
Zwerner filed the lawsuit in April claiming that the school knew the boy “had a history of random violence” and even attempted to choke his kindergarten teacher in September 2021.
In August, it was revealed that the boy bragged to another school employee about shooting his teacher. “I did it … I shot that b*tch dead,” the boy said, according to documents. “I got my mom’s gun last night.”
Due to the boy's age, he will not be charged with a crime, however, his mother pleaded guilty to federal charges for using drugs, specifically marijuana, while owning a gun, and felony charges for child neglect.