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$40M lawsuit filed by Virginia teacher who was shot by 6-year-old student can move forward, judge rules

<i>Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot/AP</i><br/>Abby Zwerner
Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot/AP
Abby Zwerner

By Sarah Dewberry and Sara Smart, CNN

(CNN) — The $40 million lawsuit filed by Newport News teacher Abigail Zwerner against the school board and administrators after she was shot by a 6-year-old student in a classroom earlier this year can move forward, a Virginia judge ruled Friday.

“This victory is an important steppingstone on our path towards justice for Abby,” plaintiff attorneys Diane Toscano, Jeffrey Breit and Kevin Biniazan said in a statement.

“We are eager to continue our pursuit of accountability and a just, fair recovery. No teacher expects to stare down the barrel of a gun held by a six-year-old student,” the statement read.

The lawsuit stems from an incident on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School, where Zwerner was shot by the 6-year-old as she was seated at her reading table in the classroom, CNN previously reported.

Zwerner, who was shot in the hand and chest, filed the lawsuit in April against Newport News Public Schools and administrators, alleging they ignored warning signs and were aware of the student’s “history of random violence.”

The school board then moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the 25-year-old’s injuries “fall under the exclusive coverage of Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Act,” CNN previously reported.

On Friday, Newport News Circuit Court Judge Matthew Hoffman disagreed with the school board, stating since Zwerner’s injuries “did not arise out of her employment” it doesn’t “fall within the exclusive provisions of workers’ compensation coverage.”

“The danger of being shot by a student is not one that is peculiar or unique to the job of a first-grade teacher in a class,” Hoffman said.

The Newport News school board declined a request from CNN for a comment.

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