Allegedly injured by 700-pound cow, former Trumbull High athlete sues town and schools
TRUMBULL — A former student has filed suit against the Trumbull Board of Education after she was injured by a cow during a return visit.
According to a lawsuit filed March 5 in state Superior Court, Stephanie Kokenos, a Shelton resident who attended Trumbull High’s Agriscience and Biotechnology Center, suffered significant leg injuries while visiting the school May 10, 2018. The suit seeks monetary damages in excess of $15,000.
In his filing, Attorney Robert Lacobelle alleges that the school system and town are liable for Kokenos’ injuries due to negligence on the part of their employees. Attorney Michael Oleyer, who is representing the school system and town, has requested an extension to Sept. 29 to respond to the suit.
Oleyer did not immediately return messages requesting comment.
Kokenos, a 2017 graduate and former track athlete at the school, had returned to the school to visit Melissa Cunningham, one of the teachers in the school’s equine science program. The program teaches about the care and handling of farm animals.
Cunningham did not respond to a request for comment.
“After signing in at the main office, and having permission to be on school grounds, the plaintiff met up with Cunningham at the school barn, which contained cattle, cows and horses, and where she observed Cunningham, in the course of instructing, educating and supervising her students in the care and handling of various animals, including cattle and cows,” Lacobelle wrote.
While there, Cunningham asked Kokenos to help two students feed Luna, a 700-pound cow.
“The plaintiff agreed to help out as requested by Cunningham and was then left alone and unsupervised with the two students to instruct them on the handling and care of ‘Luna,’” the suit alleges.
While Luna was eating, Kokenos attempted to put a harness over the animal’s head, when Luna “suddenly and unexpectedly turned and moved toward the plaintiff backing her into a corner of the stall,” Lacobelle wrote.
Luna then put her head down and pushed the crown of her head against Kokenos’ knee twice causing injuries that included a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn medial collateral ligament, and pain and swelling in her right knee, Lacobelle wrote.
As a result, Kokenos has incurred “expenses for hospital and medical care and treatment, physical therapy and or chiropractic treatment, x-rays, diagnostic imaging procedures, prescription drugs and or future surgery for her care and treatment, all to her financial detriment.”
She also suffered “loss of enjoyment of life’s pleasures and activities because she could not pursue or enjoy her customary social, family and recreational activities as she had before the accident,” Lacobelle wrote.
The suit cited Trumbull Board of Education policy, which encourages the use of volunteers to enhance learning, increase community involvement and allow better utilization of staff time and skills. Specifically, Lacobelle wrote that by being asked to help with Luna, Kokenos became a “de-facto” Tier 1 volunteer, which is described as a person working with students for a specific, one-time event during the regular school day.
But Tier 1 volunteers are allowed to serve only in an auxiliary capacity, and under the supervision of staff. By leaving Kokenos with the students in Luna’s stall, school staff failed to follow proper procedures and were not in position to prevent Kokenos from suffering harm, Lacobelle wrote. This made it apparent that Kokenos was likely subject to imminent harm, he concluded.