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CASE STUDY: Matt Doe v. Unified School District

Plaintiff: A minor (“Matt Doe”) was the victim of repeated sexual abuse perpetrated by his fifth grade teacher during the school year and summer activities.

Defendant: A public school district (“Unified School District”) was responsible for overseeing the elementary school in which the abuse took place.

Claims: Unified School District executives and administrators (including the principal of the elementary school in which the abuse took place) were negligent in their supervision and retention of the teacher who sexually abused Matt Doe.

Verdict: $23,000,000 in favor of Matt Doe.

ONGOING SEXUAL ABUSE IN A FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOM

Child sexual assault attorneys Estey & Bomberger represented Matt Doe (“Client Doe”) in a negligence action against a California public school district (“Unified School District”) filed in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County. The Unified School District oversees more than half a million students and comprises nearly 1,200 schools.

One of these schools is an elementary school that serves approximately 400 students. Client Doe attended this school. During the 2008-2009 school year, Client Doe was assigned to the class of a male teacher for fifth grade. The teacher molested Client Doe beginning in the fall of 2008, when Client Doe was just 10 years old. The teacher continued to sexually assault Client Doe until the summer of 2009, when he was arrested after Client Doe revealed the abuse to his father.

The teacher was charged with two counts of lewd acts on a child and an amended count of continuous sex abuse of a child under 14. The teacher pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Tragically, this abuse was likely preventable. More than two years prior to his arrest, a principal at Client Doe’s school observed Client Doe’s teacher alone with a female student in his car. This was a violation of Unified School District policy. The principal did not report the incident to authorities.

Another female student complained that Client Doe’s teacher had touched her inappropriately in the classroom (by playing with her hair and touching her buttocks). This student’s mother demanded to meet with the principal of the school she and Client Doe attended. The principal held a meeting with female student in the presence of the teacher who had allegedly molested her, after which it was decided that the female student was to be removed from the teacher’s classroom. The teacher was not removed from his job and authorities were not notified of the severity of the incident.

Shortly after this episode, Client Doe was molested for the first time by his teacher. Client Doe endured months of extreme sexual abuse, which left him with lasting psychological damage. As a result of his teacher’s predatory behavior, Client Doe exhibited significant depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Molestation lawyers Estey & Bomberger represented Client Doe in a negligence action against the Unified School District. They helped prove that the Unified School District was negligent in its supervision and retention of Client Doe’s teacher. The Los Angeles County jury returned a verdict in favor of Client Doe in the amount of $23,000,000. The damage award took into account Client Doe’s past and future losses, including mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress.

WINNING STRATEGY

Before trial, attorneys Estey & Bomberger worked tirelessly to prepare Client Doe’s negligence case against the Unified School District. Their molestation victims attorneys deposed a number of witnesses to gather evidence of the Unified School District’s negligence in supervising and retaining Client Doe’s teacher, including the principal at Client Doe’s school and other victims of Client Doe’s teacher. Stephen Estey relied on years of litigation experience to elicit testimony from these key deponents, and handled sensitive interviews with care and compassion. Estey & Bomberger also interviewed crucial witnesses and expert witnesses, including:

  • AN EXPERIENCED SOCIAL WORKER. A social worker who studied at Yale University, the London School of Economics, and the University of Southern California served as a witness for Client Doe in his case against the Unified School District. The social worker had years of experience working with victims of sex abuse, and had seen Client Doe on a weekly basis after he revealed to his father that his teacher had abused him. The witness testified about Client Doe’s psychological issues, helping establish that he was entitled to a large verdict to compensate him for his injuries.

  • A LEADING RESEARCHER. A leading university researcher (who was once commissioned by the Department of Justice to study sexual misconduct committed against students by public school employees) served as an expert witness for Client Doe in his case against the Unified School District. The researcher is one of the foremost experts on sexual abuse in schools in the world. The witness testified about the problems of sexual abuse in schools and sexual misconduct by teachers, helping establish that the Unified School District had been negligent in its supervision and retention of teachers who were accused of sexual abuse.

In addition to these witnesses, Estey drew on extensive courtroom experience to successfully persuade the Los Angeles County jury in this case that the Unified School District should be held liable for the harm caused to Client Doe. The $23,000,000 verdict was a tremendous victory for Client Doe and Estey & Bomberger.

Talk to an attorney

If you were the victim of child sexual abuse or molestation, our nationwide child molestation lawyers Estey & Bomberger can help you hold your abuser or the parties responsible for your abuse accountable in court. The firm’s compassionate teacher sex abuse lawyers have years of experience representing survivors of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits. For a free and confidential consultation about your case, call 1 (800) 925-0723.

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