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Judge permits shot teacher lawsuit to move to appeals court


A Virginia judge has signed off on transferring to an appeals court a case brought by a former elementary school teacher who claims she should be permitted to sue over workplace shooting injuries in lieu of collecting workers compensation benefits.  

Abigail Zwerner filed a $40 million lawsuit against the Newport News School Board over injuries she sustained after being shot by a 6-year-old student in January 2023.

The school board argues the injuries should be covered exclusively by workers comp, but Ms. Zwerner says a civil suit should be permitted due to alleged gross negligence on the part of her former employer.

On Wednesday, the trial court allowed the case to proceed to the Virginia Court of Appeals, although it’s not yet clear whether, or when, the appeals judges would accept the matter.

Anne Lahren, a school board attorney, said fast-tracking the appeals “serves the best interests of the parties,” since a statute of limitations for Ms. Zwerner to file a workers comp claim would expire by the time trial is scheduled to begin in January 2025.

Ms. Zwerner’s attorneys argue the case should be an exception to workers comp exclusive remedy because of its egregious nature.  

In January, the school board filed its own workers comp claim on Ms. Zwerner’s behalf, arguing state law permits an employer to file a claim for an employee.

That case is scheduled for an initial hearing on April 4, Ms. Lahren said.