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Private Illinois High School Sued Over a Science Experiment Gone Awry

A 2010 science experiment that went awry and caused a student injury is the basis for an Illinois lawsuit. Former student Zachary Bennett, who has graduated in the aftermath of the incident, filed the lawsuit alleging “willful and wanton conduct” on the part of private Marmion Academy.

Science%20Experiment%2045743175-001.jpgMarmion, a college prep school in Aurora, was the scene of the accident. The setting was a chemistry class where Bennett was participating in an experiment. His hand was coated with a solution of polyacrylate to act as a flame barrier between his skin and a layer of methane gas filled soap bubbles.

The initial experiment was a success, but the class and Bennett decided to take it a step farther. Bennett wore only a bathing suit, ski goggles and a swim cap. A towel was placed on the floor, with Bennett lying on his back. This stage of the experiment was also successful, prompting a further experiment with Bennett standing up.

Bennett panicked when the flames came near his face. He stepped off of the towel, slipped on some soap that that had been spilled and fell on his face. His teeth were injured in the fall, but Bennett was not burned.

Bennett and his family filed a lawsuit over the injuries, claiming that the damage to his face and teeth were the result of the teacher failing to ensure the safety of the classroom. However, Marmion Academy attorneys say that there was no “willful and wanton conduct” connected to the incident and that the lawsuit mainly relies on an allegation of simple negligence, which is protected by Illinois school codes. The defendants go on to state that the plaintiff must prove “a conscious decision to disregard the safety of others,” something they argue has not yet been done.

Regardless, it seems clear that this case is still far from resolution, highlighting a need for caution in the classroom when it comes to potentially risky chemistry experiments.