2017 | Schools

Lawsuit Claims Teen Died After Gaithersburg High Gym Teacher Denied Request for Inhaler

Mother of student accuses Montgomery County school officials of negligence

Taylor Walton

Walton family

A Gaithersburg woman has filed a lawsuit that faults the Montgomery County school system for her daughter’s death in 2015 after an asthma attack in gym class.

The federal complaint lodged Tuesday claims that Taylor Walton started having trouble breathing during her Gaithersburg High School gym class on Nov. 30, 2015, and asked permission to get her inhaler out of her locker. Her gym teacher wouldn’t let her leave class, according to the court filing.

The teacher, who isn’t named in the lawsuit, refused her request a second time before finally letting her out of the gymnasium, the complaint stated. A short time later, a school employee found Taylor collapsed on the floor outside the gym, according to the documents.

School nurses began administering artificial respiration to Taylor, who “appeared unconscious and nearly dead” the complaint stated. Arriving rescue workers also tried to revive Taylor, but she was pronounced dead at Shady Grove hospital, according to the lawsuit. She was 14 years old when she died, according to her mother’s attorney.

The attorney, Jay Dorsey, said he is trying to obtain school camera footage that will shed light on the sequence of events.

"When a child is in the school district, from the time they get there, the school is responsible for their safety," Dorsey said.

NBC4 Washington first reported on the lawsuit on Friday.

The complaint takes aim at the Montgomery County Board of Education, Gaithersburg High School and the gym teacher and charges the defendants with gross negligence, violating Taylor’s civil rights and negligence in hiring and supervising employees.

Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Derek Turner said the school system does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit states that Taylor’s mother, Georgia Grant-Walton, is seeking $10 million in damages on each count. She is also requesting $400,000 for her daughter’s pain and suffering and the loss of income from having her life cut short. 

“The actions or omissions of the Defendant Board and its staff … breached the duty owed Taylor. Each individual breach by the Board and staff, or in concert with each other, was a substantial factor in proximately causing injury and then death of Taylor,” the suit stated.

The lawsuit states that Gaithersburg High School employees were notified of Taylor’s asthma when the teen enrolled in August 2015. Taylor used her inhaler to control an October 2015 asthma attack that happened in gym class in front of her teacher, the filing reported.

The parents of a high school football player sued the Montgomery County school board in 2012 in connection with their son's death. The 16-year-old student at Northwest High School in Germantown collapsed during football practice in 2009 and died four days later of heat stroke, according to a Washington Examiner article.

The player's family said the suit had been dropped, according to NBC's report on the new lawsuit.