The Turlock Unified School District has settled a lawsuit for $6 million, after a 6-year old girl suffered severe head trauma in a playground fall and the injury was not properly addressed by Dennis Earl Elementary School staff.
TurlockCityNews.com uncovered the Dec. 11, 2013 settlement through a review of Stanislaus County Superior Court records. A full case summary was subsequently obtained from VerdictSearch.com.
The girl’s grandparents, Tony and Kimberly Pascoal, contend that on the day of the incident, Oct. 20, 2010, a group of third grade boys playing an unsupervised game of tag slammed into their granddaughter.
The girl was knocked to the ground, and the back of her head slammed against the concrete.
“(The girl) was medically assessed by an office secretary because there was no nurse or medical tech on campus when the accident occurred,” the case summary reads. “(The girl) was then sent to class, where she complained of a horrible headache that had developed.
“She was then seen by the school's health technician, who had (the girl) lay down with ice for two hours. (The girl) then became unconscious and unresponsive, and had a seizure.
“Finally, 9-1-1 was called, and (the girl) was airlifted to UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, where she was treated for head and brain injuries.”
At UCSF it was determined the girl had a skull fracture and brain injury resulting in a hematoma and hemorrhaging. After five days in the hospital, a blood transfusion and anti-seizure medication, the girl was discharged. She now suffers from seizures and cognitive defects that affect her short-term memory and attention span.
According to the girl’s attorney, the “school district's personnel failed to supervise and control the conduct of the students on campus before class.” No adults on campus stopped the running, or saw the collision or injury occur. There were only four adults on duty to supervise more than 700 children, constituting “negligent supervision” and a “dangerous condition of public property.”
After mediation the case was settled in the form of a $6 million annuity. The girl will receive $15,000 per month for 40 years, along with various lump sum payments at ages 25, 30, 34 and 40. The guaranteed benefits will equal $7,427,400 and lifetime benefits will total $14,089,620.
Are Turlock Schools Safe?
News of the settlement comes just days after a father announced he will seek legal action against the district, following the perceived mishandling of his son’s injury at Crowell Elementary School.
The six-year-old boy was either stabbed or “poked” in the neck with a pencil by a classmate, either intentionally or accidentally. The school did not call an ambulance, though Emanuel Medical Center doctors said the injury may have been serious and sent the child via ambulance to the Children’s Hospital of Central California. Also, the father says he reported the alleged stabber as a bully to Crowell staff three times, and his complaints went unaddressed.
TUSD Board of Trustees President Bob Weaver said he believes Turlock public schools are safe.
“Yes I do (believe schools are safe),” Weaver said. “We try our best to prevent injuries, but do they happen? Yes.”
He went on to explain he could not offer any further comment due to confidentiality regarding each incident, but he did say the school district carries insurance that pays for the lawsuit.
“That’s what we have insurance for,” he said.
In an emailed statement to TurlockCityNews.com, TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor, directed by Superintendent Sonny Da Marto, stated,
“Despite an unfortunate accident on the playground in 2010 where one of our students was injured, we believe that Turlock schools are safe and well supervised,” Trainor said. “Student safety remains a high priority in our district and we are continuously examining our safety procedures, staffing, and training programs to make refinements and improvements as needed.”
District staff did not respond to questions asking if TUSD needs to reevaluate specifically how school sites are staffed with medical personnel and playground or campus supervisors.
Trainor did confirm that no employees were terminated following the Dennis Earl Elementary School incident, but declined to comment on any disciplinary actions taken.
“We must respect the legal right to privacy of personnel records so we cannot discuss details of disciplinary actions,” Trainor said. “We can say that no personnel actions were taken as a result of this incident.”