New York student permanently disfigured after suffering burns in botched chemistry experiment awarded $60 million
A former high school student in Beacon, New York, who was badly burned in a botched chemistry experiment over five years ago, was awarded nearly $60 million in damages by a Manhattan jury on Monday.
The substantial amount almost equals the $70 million-plus asked by Alonzo Yanes' lawyer during his closing argument last week.
The award amount is also 11 times more than the $5 million New York City said that Yanes deserved.
The young man was permanently disfigured after the incident which occurred on January 2, 2014.
Reports state that Yanes suffered third-degree burns over 30% of his body, including his face, neck, arms, and hands.
The incident occurred when the chemistry teacher Anna Poole lit a fireball during a "Rainbow Experiment" to show the colored flames produced by multiple salts.
The jurors awarded the 21-year-old nearly $29.6 million for past pain and suffering, and the same amount for pain and suffering in the future.
According to the unanimous verdict by the jurors, the cash will be paid out to him over the period of 54 years.
Yanes' lawyer Ben Rubinowitz said that his client's family was "very pleased" but would give up all the money “in a heartbeat if there was a way that the entire event could be undone," the New York Post reported.
Jurors also found both the city Department of Education and teacher Anna Poole liable for negligence and "substantial” negligence in the blaze inside the high school located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
One of the jurors, 65-year-old Jo Ann Jacobsen, said that she wanted to award more money in damages but compromised on a lower amount ultimately.
"We thought that Anna Poole was very negligent but she was less responsible than the Board of Education," Jacobsen said. "They should have given her the rules. You can’t risk children’s lives."
Reports state that one of the jurors broke down and left the courthouse in tears.
Yanes, during the hearing, testified about his injuries in horrific details last week, saying: "I was hopelessly burning alive, and I couldn’t put myself out, and the pain was so unbearable."
He was 16-years-old at the time of the incident.
Yanes also revealed the heartbreaking impact of his scars, saying that he felt like a "freak" and blamed his insecurities about his appearance for the fact that he’s still a virgin, the outlet reported.
He spent five months after the incident in hospital undergoing painful treatment that including having cadaver skin stapled to his body, and his own skin sliced from his legs and scalp and then grafted onto the burns.
The 21-year-old also told the juror that he felt hot all the time because of the loss of sweat glands and nerves and how his ear tissue slowly died and had to be eventually cut away.
Another student, Julia Saltonstall, who suffered third-degree burns on her arms later settled a suit for $750,000, according to reports.