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Parents sue school, town after girl falls through SHS bleachers

BRENTWOOD – The parents of a Salem student seriously injured in 2010 after she fell 15 feet through an opening in bleachers at Salem High School are suing the school district and the town.
Ann and Christian Butterworth of Salem filed a civil lawsuit recently claiming the school district and town were negligent because they allegedly failed to address “sizeable gaps” in the bleachers at Grant Field that allowed their daughter, Kayla, then 12, to fall through.

According to the suit filed in Rockingham County Superior Court, Kayla Butterworth was a member of the Woodbury Middle School track team and was participating in a meet at the high school when the incident occurred on May 12, 2010.

At the time, the track team was gathered in the area of the Grant Field bleachers, which have a maximum height of 20 feet, waiting for the meet to begin when Kayla spotted her sister, Lauren, sitting in an announcer’s booth, the suit said.

Kayla decided to walk over to speak with her sister, but when she climbed the bleacher stairs and crossed a section of bleachers to reach the booth, the suit said she fell through an opening between the seats and footrest.

Kayla, who fell approximately 15 feet and landed on the ground, suffered a broken right wrist, dislocated right elbow, multiple fractures of her right pelvis, facial lacerations, and other injuries, the suit said.

“The lack of any protective netting or screen to cover the openings posed a hazardous and dangerous condition in that an individual who tripped or fell while on the bleachers was at a heightened risk to pass through the opening and fall to the ground,” the Butterworths argue in their suit.

The Butterworths are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Their Manchester lawyer, Jeanne Trott, said the injuries resulted in medical bills in excess of $21,000.

“She’s completed acute care treatment for the multiple injuries, but we’re not sure of the long-term prognosis because of the nature of the injuries,” Trott said.

After the fall, Kayla was rushed to Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, Mass., and then sent to Boston Children’s Hospital, where she was admitted for several days. She had to use a wheelchair and a walker for a period of time after her release, Trott said.

The suit accuses the school district and the town of negligently failing to maintain the bleachers “in a reasonably safe condition” and failing to inspect them for hazardous conditions and warn of the dangers. The suit also alleges that the bleachers do not comply with the town’s life safety codes.

Salem school Superintendent Michael Delahanty said he was aware of the incident when it happened three years ago but was unaware of the lawsuit.

He learned of the litigation when contacted by a reporter seeking comment on the allegations.
“I’m not aware of other injuries caused by falls on the bleachers. As for safety issues, nothing has been brought to my attention and no modifications have been made to the bleachers,” Delahanty said.

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