Bryan Zavala Wins $3.8 Million Jury Award for Hand Injury in Newport-Mesa Shop Class

Careful with those fingers, kids.
Careful with those fingers, kids.
Photo by flickr user Scarlatti2004

A 2013 Estancia High School graduate whose right hand was severely injured in a metal shop class when he was 16 received a $3.8 million jury award in his lawsuit against the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, according to his attorney.

Three fingers on Bryan Zavala's right hand became trapped while using a disc sander in class on Halloween day in 2011. His dominant hand had been pulled into the gap between the high speed industrial machine he was using to taper a steel rod as part of his metal hammer fabrication project and the edge of the work table.

That gap proved to be three times greater than allowed under OSHA safety guidelines, according to Zavala's suit, which maintained the machine was dangerous and never should have been used in the class. The shop instructor was also accused of teaching an improper grinding technique and failing to properly supervise beginning students.

"The jury unanimously determined that the district improperly maintained the machine and that the machine constituted a dangerous condition," said one of Zavala's attorneys, Gregory L. Bentley of Shernoff Bidart Echeverria Bentley, which specializes in "protecting policyholders from insurance company abuse."

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"These injuries could have been avoided if the school had taken proper care of its machinery and if Bryan was properly trained and supervised on how to use the machine," Bentley continued.

Another Zavala attorney, Keith P. More of the personal injury law firm Berman More Gonzalez, said, "Bryan's injuries will impact him for the rest of his life, and limit his ability to pursue the career of his choice."

School district officials could not be reached for comment.

The most surprising thing about this story: Public schools still have shop classes! Who knew? Well, I guess we know why some don't anymore.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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