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Student Set on Fire During Chemistry Experiment Awarded $60M in Damages

— July 9, 2019

A NYC student was recently awarded $60 million in damages after he was set on fire during a chemistry experiment.

In a science experiment gone wrong, Alonzo Yanes ended up suffering from third-degree burns when he was a sophomore at Beacon High School when a chemistry experiment got out of control. Fortunately for him, he was recently awarded $60 million in damages when a “Manhattan jury found the city’s Department of Education and his former teacher liable for the accident that left much of his body scarred.”

Image of a fireball explosion
Explosion; image courtesy of
geralt via Pixabay,

The fiery incident happened back in January 2014 and shook the community, so much so that many began pressuring the school system to make changes to the way the school approached science experiments. But what happened, exactly? Well, according to witness accounts, science teacher Anna Poole was conducting an “experiment intended to show how salts change color when exposed to methanol.” It’s important to note, however, that a federal agency had previously warned against conducting the experiment, known as the Rainbow, because of its potential dangers. Unfortunately, during the experiment, “a large fireball exploded,” causing students to jump “under their desks and call for help.” However, Yanes and another student were already caught in the flames. The burns Yanes sustained were “so deep that his sweat glands were numbed and he is no longer able to sweat through some of parts of his body.” Following the incident, he had to spend “five months in hospitals, including two months in a burn unit undergoing extensive skin graft surgeries.”

When recounting his experience during the three-week trial regarding the matter, Yanes said, “I was hopelessly burning alive, and I couldn’t put myself out, and the pain was so unbearable.”

Poole was also at the trial and wept throughout. Though she no longer works as a science teacher at the school, she does work for the Department of Education’s central office. When commenting on her character, city lawyer Mark Mixson said, “Ms. Poole said that she treated these kids like her kids. I want to suggest to you that everybody here should be appreciative of people like Ms. Poole.”

Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s law department, chimed in on the settlement amount and said:

“The well-being of students is the top priority of the Department of Education and this chemistry experiment is no longer used in any classroom as a result of this tragic accident. While we respect the jury’s verdict, we are exploring our legal options to reduce the award to an amount that is consistent with awards that have been upheld by the courts in similar cases.”

According to Paolucci, the city law department believes Yanes shouldn’t receive more than $5 million in damages.

Originally Yanes and his lawyer, Ben Rubinowitz sought $70 million in damages. However, in the end, the jury awarded him “$29 million for past pain and suffering, including Yanes’s surgeries, and another $29 million for rehabilitation stretching 54 years into the future.”


$60 Million Awarded to N.Y. Student Engulfed in Flames in Chemistry Accident

NYC Student Who Was Set On Fire In Chemistry Accident Awarded Nearly $60 Million

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