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Shot teacher suit can go to trial, bypass comp: Appeals court


A Virginia appellate court has declined to intervene in a lawsuit filed by a former elementary school teacher who was injured after being shot by a 6-year-old in January 2023, allowing the case to move forward in civil court and not the workers compensation system.

The Virginia Court of Appeals on Friday dismissed a pretrial appeal by the Newport News School Board, which argues a $40 million lawsuit by former teacher Abigail Zwerner should be barred because of workers comp exclusivity.

The school board sought to keep the case in the workers comp system. A trial judge previously permitted the case to go to trial.

Friday’s appeals court decision paves the way for a January 2025 trial start date.

The school board, which contends workers comp is the appropriate process to compensate Ms. Zwerner for her injuries, said Friday’s decision was not unexpected.

“We knew … that the Court of Appeals granting our petition at this stage of the litigation was a long shot,” said Anne Lahren, an attorney with Virginia Beach-based Pender & Coward P.C. who represents the school board.

Ms. Lahren said the case will likely be appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court and that the high court will “ultimately rule that Ms. Zwerner’s workplace injuries fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of Virginia’s Worker’s Compensation Act.”