• School’s liability in student’s injury caused by lab explosion

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My son’s left eye almost got blinded by an unexpected explosion at his science laboratory. Apparently, he peeked through the test tubes when what they contained caused the explosion. I learned that the teacher for the class went out at the time because allegedly she needed to talk to a fellow faculty member. The school and the teacher denied liability over what happened to my son, saying the teacher had warned the students prior to the experiment not to place a heated beaker and the test tubes before or near their eyes. Are they really absolved from any liability?

    Sincerely yours,
    Thor

    Dear Thor,
    The case of St. Joseph’s College, et al. vs. Jayson Miranda, et al. (G.R. No. 182353, June 29, 2010), penned by the former Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura can enlighten you in your situation. It clearly stated:

    “As found by both lower courts, the proximate cause of Jayson’s injury was the concurrent failure of petitioners to prevent the foreseeable mishap that occurred during the conduct of the science experiment. Petitioners were negligent by failing to exercise the higher degree of care, caution and foresight incumbent upon the school, its administrators and teachers.

    Article 218 of the Family Code, in relation to Article 2180 of the Civil Code, bestows special parental authority on the following persons with the corresponding obligation, thus:

    Art. 218. The school, its administrators and teachers, or the individual, entity or institution engaged in child care shall have special parental authority and responsibility over the minor child while under their supervision, instruction or custody.

    Authority and responsibility shall apply to all authorized activities whether inside or outside the premises of the school, entity or institution.

    Art. 2180. The obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible.

    xxx xxx xxx

    Lastly, teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades shall be liable for damages caused by their pupils and students or apprentices, so long as they remain in their custody. (Emphasis supplied)
    In the case, the court found:

    “Petitioner negligence and failure to exercise the requisite degree of care and caution is demonstrated by the following:

    1. Petitioner school did not take affirmative steps to avert damage and injury to its students although it had full information on the nature of dangerous science experiments conducted by the students during class;

    2. Petitioner school did not install safety measures to protect the students who conduct experiments in class;

    3. Petitioner school did not provide protective gears and devices, specifically goggles, to shield students from expected risks and dangers; and

    4. Petitioner Tabugo was not inside the classroom the whole time her class conducted the experiment, specifically, when the accident involving Jayson occurred. In any event, the size of the class – fifty (50) students conducting the experiment is difficult to monitor.” (Emphasis supplied)

    Evidently, your son’s situation is at square with the above-quoted case. Both the school and the teacher can be held liable in your son’s situation, provided that you are able to prove the neglect on the part of his teacher in the care and supervision of her class during the incident, as described above.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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