gavel on a judge's benchSovereign immunity protects government entities, like public schools, from certain lawsuits. In the State of Colorado, for example, this type of immunity can be exercised in some types of personal injury cases, notes Berkowitz and Hanna LLC. In a recent lawsuit filed in Garfield County District Court, the shield of government immunity has been raised by the defense.

Colorado high school student Jacob White was severely injured in the school’s welding and machine shop facility while trying to change the oil in a pickup truck. Another student tried to start the truck without first depressing the clutch, causing the vehicle to lurch forward and pinning White to another nearby machine. The plaintiff alleges that rescue workers had to extract White from the machine before flying him to the hospital. The suit claims that White was subjected to a “dangerous condition” in the machine shop, and the facility “did not contain adequate safety equipment for maintaining motor vehicles.”  The plaintiff further states that the severity of his injury prompted doctors to seriously consider amputating his left leg and that the student was unable to participate in fall and winter sports.

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the school is protected by government immunity, notes Berkowitz and Hanna LLC. The motion also asserts that since the machine to which White was pinned was not attached to the ground, it did not constitute a physical or structural part of the facility.

Note: Berkowitz and Hanna LLC did not represent any of the parties in this case.

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