$6.9 million verdict against school district (LAUSD) when 10-year-old male student is molested by teacher. Los Angeles County.
Ten-year-old male student is molested by teacher on and off campus. School principal reported a prior, suspicious incident involving the male teacher. Jury finds school district 30% at fault for not taking earlier action.
- Case Name: Walter “Matt” Doe v. Los Angeles Unified School District, et al.
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior/ BC 424823
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, December 17, 2012
- Date Action was Filed: Thursday, October 29, 2009
- Type of Action: Sexual Abuse
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Suzanne G. Bruguera
- Plaintiffs: Matt Doe, age 10, student
- Defendants: Los Angeles Unified School District and Forrest Stobbe (teacher).
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $23,000,000
- Net Verdict or Award: $6,900,000
- Award as to each Defendant:
$6,900,000 as to LAUSD; Stobbe was dismissed prior to trial as he pled no contest in the criminal matter and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 30% to LAUSD; 70% to Forrest Stobbe.
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 15 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff: Estey & Bomberger by Stephen J. Estey and Michael Bomberger, San Diego
- Attorney for the Defendant: Backus, Bland, Navarro & Weber by David Ernst and Stephen L. Backus, Los Angeles
- Plaintiff’s Medical Experts: None
- Defendant's Medical Experts: Paul R. Abramson PhD, causation and damages, UCLA
- Plaintiff's Technical Experts: Charol Shakeshaft, Educator Sexual Misconduct (school district policies and practices), Virginia Commonwealth University
- Defendant's Technical Experts: William Bainbridge, School District Standard of Care, St. Augustine, FL
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Ten-year-old plaintiff was repeatedly sexually assaulted by his male fifth grade teacher in an elementary school classroom during the 2008-2009 school year as well as on summer excursions to amusement parks after school let out in June 2009.
Two years before the molestation began, the principal saw the teacher putting a student in his private car, but took no action because she knew the teacher was friends with the girl’s parents.
At beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, a 10-year-old girl complained that, while she was in line with other students in the classroom, defendant male teacher put her hair into a ponytail and tapped her one time in the upper hip/buttock area. The principal testified she called LAPD with this information and also mailed a Suspected Child Abuse Report (SCAR) to LAPD. The principal sent a SCAR report to other LAUSD executives and administrators.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That the principal of the elementary school and other LAUSD executives and administrators had prior notice of improper conduct which presented a danger to students, yet chose not to adequately monitor or supervise his conduct. That as a result, plaintiff was molested. That LAUSD was responsible for the off-premises molestation because it began on school premises.
- Defendant's Contentions:
That the acts of teacher Forrest Stobbe were criminal, intentional and he alone was 100% at fault. That if liability was found, Stobbe was 95% at fault.
That prior hip touch incident was reported to the police, and after the police told the principal to handle it administratively, the principal investigated and found that based on numerous statements taken, the touching of the female student was insufficient to tell the employees that Stobbe would harm children.
Defendant's school practices expert testified that the principal properly reported the hip touch incident to the police and Stobbe was monitored in a reasonable manner. Additionally, the District asserted that it was not responsible for the acts of abuse that took place during the summer after the school year ended after the plaintiff graduated from elementary school. While plaintiff suffered emotional distress for the sexual abuse, he also had significant problems in his home life and an untreated ADHD condition.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Continuing psychiatric residuals from sexual abuse.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $2,000,000
- Defendant §998 Offer: None
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $1,500,000
- Defendant Offer during Trial: $2,000,000