Another victory for prominent Los Angeles law firm Ivie, McNeil, Wyatt, Purcell & Diggs (IMW) came recently in a case against Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD). The firm obtained a jury verdict of more than $887,000 against PUSD on September 11, 2019, after a one-week trial in Van Nuys. The jurors voted 11-1 in favor of the plaintiff, who had been a 14-year old Pasadena High School student when she was pressured into consensual sex with another student by the school’s security guard.
According to a jury summary of the case, the male student, a 17-year-old PHS senior, made arrangements with the school security officer to get the plaintiff out of class, and bring her to him in the school auditorium. The school security officer had a reputation for facilitating inappropriate conduct by students.
“Kids go to school and parents expect them to be supervised and led in the right direction. But if you have supervision personnel that are encouraging inappropriate activity, then the whole system breaks down,” says IMW partner Keith Wyatt who conducted the case along with Kristen Wyatt of IMW.
This case involved claims of negligence by Pasadena School District personnel in the supervision of its students, campus, and employees. According to the case summary, defendant (PUSD) admitted that it negligently caused the plaintiff student’s damages that were sustained as a result of the incident and that the plaintiff was not at fault and had no responsibility or causation for her damages. As a result of the incident, both students were suspended from school. However, the plaintiff became the victim of threats, bullying, and slander from other students —so much that she feared returning to a regular high school environment and had to complete her high school education at an alternative school.
Due to this result, IMW contended that the plaintiff lost four years of the important social interaction and maturity which come from having a normal, four-year high school experience. IMW also contended that the plaintiff experienced a loss of trust from the institutional betrayal which caused the incident. The jury awarded plaintiff damages for past, present, and future emotional distress.
“The school administrators, and the police, did not seem to place much value on supervising and protecting our client, a 14-year-old high school freshman girl, from being pressured into a sexual encounter, while at school, by an adult school security officer and a young man who was a high school senior. Our client deserved better supervision and protection. The jury agreed with us, and their verdict for $887,416 was indicative of the value that should be placed on protecting young female students from being taken advantage of,” says IMW’s Keith Wyatt.
When asked for a statement on the verdict, Pasadena Unified School District declined to comment.