Director of after-school program "grooms" boy for years before sexually abusing him. $25M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Student is abused by director of private school's after-school program.

The Case

  • Case Name: Stephen W. v. Westerly School of Long Beach
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC615649
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, June 06, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, April 04, 2016
  • Type of Action: Sexual Abuse
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Patrick T. Madden
  • Plaintiffs:
    Stephen W.
  • Defendants:
    Westerly School of Long Beach
    Scott Durzo
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $25,300,000
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: The jury apportioned 35% of the fault for the sexual abuse to the Westerly School and the remaining fault was apportioned to the perpetrator of the abuse, Scott Durzo.
  • Economic Damages:

    Future medical expenses:$300,000 

    Past medical expenses: Waived

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past pain and suffering: $10,000,000

    Future pain and suffering:$15,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Taylor & Ring LLP by John C. Taylor and Natalie Weatherford, Manhattan Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Berman Berman Berman Schneider & Lowary by Mark Lowary and Michael Verska, Riverside.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Deborah Cresswell, Ph.D., adolescent psychology, Encino.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Avram Mack, M.D., psychiatry.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    In 2000, when Stephen W. was eight years old, he first met Scott Durzo while attending his summer sports camp, and continued to attend every summer without incident, getting to know and trust Durzo. Through the next several years, Durzo began to "groom" Stephen W. by paying special attention to him and acting as his mentor and friend.

    Eventually, Durzo’s behavior began to shift and Durzo began to sexually abuse Stephen starting in 2006 when Stephen W. was 12 years old. In 2008, Durzo, who was in his mid 40s, was hired by Westerly School of Long Beach as the director of the after-school program. Durzo began to bring 15-year-old Stephen W., who was enrolled in home-study classes, with him to the school to use the school’s facilities and do his home-study work. Throughout the 2008/2009 school year, Durzo would take Stephen W. off the Westerly campus to his home and sexually abuse him.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Throughout the 2008/2009 school year, Westerly employees negligently supervised their employee Durzo and minor plaintiff, Stephen W., allowing the abuse to continue unhindered over the course of that school year.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    The abuse began three years before Stephen W. and Scott Durzo were ever on the Westerly campus. All of the sexual abuse incidents occurred off campus at Scott Durzo's home.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $150,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0

Additional Notes

Per defense counsel:

Plaintiff asked for $50 million in total damages and asked that 80% ($40 million) be assessed against Westerly, and 20% against Durzo. 

The jury found 35% to Westerly, 62% percent to Durzo and 3% to the parents of the plaintiff.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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