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Custodian sues over forced suicide cleanup

April 22, 2009
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NINE MILE FALLS, WA — A custodian at Lakeside High School who sued the Nine Miles Falls School District after becoming distraught from being forced to clean up the scene of a student’s 2004 suicide had her lawsuit reinstated Tuesday by the Washington Court of Appeals after it was dismissed in January 2008, according to the Spokesman-Review.
Debbie Rothwell claims she stayed at work until after 4 a.m. cleaning the mess of blood, brain and bone all alone and became "emotionally distraught and physically ill" before returning to the school less than four hours later at Superintendent Michael Green''s orders to serve cookies and coffee to grieving students and keep the media away from the school, the story stated.
William Powell, Rothwell''s lawyer, said: "There are people who do clean up the mess after one of these horrible murders or suicides happen. But the superintendent in this case chose not to do that. He should have known better."
The heart of the case is whether Rothwell’s claim of post-traumatic stress disorder falls under the Industrial Injury Act, which prohibits lawsuits based on industry injury or occupational disease, the story noted.
According to the story, Judges John A. Schultheis and Dennis J. Sweeney originally ruled the incident was not the result of one work order and therefore was not covered by the Industrial Injury Act, a ruling that was overturned by the Court of Appeals.
Rothwell seeks unspecified damages from the district in the lawsuit, the story added.
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