Howard schools seek liability of county in suit over injury


In an unusual legal ploy, the Howard County school system is trying to make the county government pay any damages that may result from a $2 million suit filed on behalf of a girl who lost her eye during an accident at a recreation program in a school gymnasium.

The move by the Board of Education, which county attorneys admit caught them by surprise, involves a civil suit filed against the school system and a manufacturer of gym equipment after * *TC Feb. 6, 1988, accident at West Friendship Elementary.

The suit, filed by Leland R. Cheyne of Ellicott City, alleges that his 4-year-old daughter, Tiffany, lost her eye when she fell into a protruding bracket on a piece of gym equipment while he was coaching a youth basketball game.

Mr. Cheyne's suit argues that brackets on the folding equipment were improperly assembled, with the sharp edge of the bracket protruding outward.

The question of who should be responsible for any damages went before Howard County Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. yesterday. The county asked him to dismiss the Board of Education's request, and he took the issue under advisement.

Initially, the county government was named as a defendant in the civil suit. But in a June 30, 1989, ruling, Circuit Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. removed the county as a defendant in the case.

J. Michael Sloneker, the school board's lawyer, subsequently filed a "third-party complaint," trying to bring the county government back into the case.

He argued that the Department of Recreation and Parks had signed an agreement with the school board to cover any injuries involving use of the gym by a youth group operating a basketball league at the school.

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