Student wielding blow torch sets himself on fire, sues college

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Oct. 29, 2009, 2:54am

TYLER – In a college course that teaches students to weld, student Paul Manley was attempting to maneuver the torch for the first time when it twisted and set his shirt on fire.

Claiming the college should have required students wear flame-retardant protective clothing or aprons, Manley filed suit against LeTourneau University on Oct. 21 in the Tyler Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

As freshman studying engineering at LeTourneau in the fall of 2007, Manley was taking a course called "Manufacturing Process," which introduces students to welding.

Manley claims that despite receiving very little safety training or supervision, he was nonetheless using a welding torch for the first time by November. When the tubes twisted in his hands, his shirt caught fire.

He was burned on his torso, arm, neck and face. Manley states that at least one other student was burned in a similar manner prior to this incident.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendant was negligent for:

  • Failing to maintain a safe working/learning environment;
  • Failing to provide safe working equipment and appropriate safety clothing;
  • Failing to implement a safety program;
  • Failing to properly supervise and train its students with regard to safety procedures;
  • Failing to follow the college's policies with regard to safety;
  • Failing to warn him of the dangerous condition;
  • Failing to prevent the dangerous condition;
  • Requiring him to perform duties outside of his training or abilities;
  • And failing to reduce or eliminate the risk posed by the "unreasonably dangerous condition."

    The plaintiff is seeking damages for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, permanent disability, disfigurement and physical impairment.

    Seeking exemplary damages, Manley states that the university's actions "involved an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to its students and the general public" but "nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, and welfare of others."

    Dallas attorney Robert D. Crain of the law firm Crain Lewis LLP is representing the plaintiff.

    U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis is presiding over the litigation.

    Case No 6:09cv00482

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