Megan Debo

Hutchison v. Toews
Argued: September 24, 1970
Decided: November 16, 1970

Background: Toews was a high school chemist teacher when one day he left his classroom unattended and two students came in and took some chemicals. The boys were Hutchison and Brown. They stole potassium chlorite to make a homemade firework. When the pipe the boys made exploded, Hutchison’s hand got injured in which he filed a suit against Toews. The court sided with Toews deciding that Hutchison was aware that the explosive they made using the potassium chlorite was dangerous and it was not Toews fault he got injured.

Implication: Unfortunately, this incident would of never happened if Toews didn’t leave his classroom unattended with the door unlocked. Yes, it was a simple mistake but a teacher is responsible for what happens in their classroom, especially a chemist teacher who is in charge of many dangerous chemicals.

Question: Even though the students knew what they were doing while constructing the firework, do you think the teacher was at fault due to leaving his classroom open?

476 P.2d 811 (1970)

Fred HUTCHISON, a Minor, through His Guardian Ad Litem, Hilde D. Hutchison, Appellant,v.Nathan E. TOEWS, and School District No. 4, Jackson County, Oregon, Respondents.

Court of Appeals of Oregon, Department 2.

Argued and Submitted September 24, 1970.

Decided November 16, 1970.


The defendant who was a high school chemistry teacher in 1965 was accused of giving an explosive to one of his students who in turn used it to injure himself. The fifteen year old boy and his friend, who is also the co-appellant, ordered a pamphlet on how to make different kinds fireworks. The two boys badgered their teacher until he gave him a small amount of the ingredients to one of the explosives. What makes this case so difficult is that the judge cannot be positive if this is the chemical used in the explosive or if it was another sample that one of the boys stole from the chemical room. The chemical in question was used to make an explosive, that the pamphlet stated was extremely powerful. The boys used this explosive in a cannon, which blew up, injuring one of the boy’s hands.


Even though one of the boys confessed to stealing more of the chemical, the fact that the teacher left the chemical storage closet unlocked allowing the boy access made him guilty by substantial causation. Because the judge had doubts about the chemicals used in the explosion and the plaintiff had knowledge of the risk involved, the judge handed out an involuntary nonsuits judgment.


Even if it was proved that the chemical the boy’s used during the accident, was not the one given to them by the teacher, he would have still been guilty because he did not ensure the chemical room was secured. This case shows that teachers are responsible for what happens to their students when they were negligent but it also shows that the student can be held responsible for their own actions.

Quiz question:

After two years what was revealed by the co-defendant Brown.

Brown revealed that he had taken without permission some of the potassium chlorate.

Matthew Hotard