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Exploding toilet injures school librarian, prompts suit against Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary, where a former school librarian says she was injured in 2012 by an exploding toilet. She filed a lawsuit on Nov. 10, 2016 in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary, where a former school librarian says she was injured in 2012 by an exploding toilet. She filed a lawsuit on Nov. 10, 2016 in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Nov. 22, 2016

TARPON SPRINGS — A former librarian for Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary is suing the city after a toilet at the school exploded and sent shards of porcelain into her leg.

According to the recently filed lawsuit, Anne Burson of Palm Harbor, 69, was working in the school's library in November 2012 when a city maintenance crew arrived to work on the school's water lines, which were experiencing pressure issues. Then, she heard a loud explosion.

Burson, according to the lawsuit, peeked inside the women's restroom and saw that a toilet had exploded, littering the surrounding stall with pieces of porcelain. She told one of the city's maintenance workers what she saw, and the worker cleaned the restroom and informed her it was safe for use, according to the lawsuit.

Later that day, the lawsuit says, Burson returned to the restroom to use another toilet and, after flushing, was injured when that toilet exploded.

According to a personal injury claim filed with the city, Burson was washing her hands when the toilet exploded. The claim, filed in January 2015, said she suffered a "severe contusion to her leg which has resulted in a dark, gouging scar."

Gregory Patterson, a plumbing instructor at Pinellas Technical College, said he's heard of porcelain breaking only if there was a manufacturer problem, or if water lines were crossed and hot water was run to toilets.

"Us plumbers sometimes make mistakes," he said. "It has happened before."

In the lawsuit, Burson said the city did not notify the Pinellas County School Board or any school employees that the maintenance crew would be working on the school's water lines. She is suing the city for negligence.

Burson did not comment and her lawyer did not respond to an interview request.

Jay Daigneault, a lawyer representing Tarpon Springs, said the city had not yet been made aware of the lawsuit. A spokeswoman, Judy Staley, said the city does not comment on active lawsuits.

Pinellas school spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said Burson never filed a complaint with the district's legal office and said its legal team was not familiar with the incident. Wolf said Burson retired from Tarpon Springs Fundamental in 2013.

Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Colleen Wright at cwright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

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