$135,000 settles Yakima School District lawsuit

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YakimaHerald, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

$135,000 settles Yakima School District lawsuit

By CHRIS BRISTOL
YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC

A lawsuit accusing the Yakima School District of negligence for a second-grader’s controversial playground injury nearly nine years ago has been settled for $135,000.

The settlement averted a civil trial that was scheduled to begin Monday in Yakima County Superior Court. It was reached Feb. 23 as a result of mediation, according to court records.

The case revolved around an incident that occurred Nov. 12, 1997, at Whitney Elementary School. The lawsuit was filed in September 2003.

The girl, identified by the initials B.V., told school officials she was attacked during recess by two boys, also second-graders, who repeatedly kicked her right leg.

Lawyers for the girl accused the school district of negligence, saying no playground monitors were in the tetherball area when the attack occurred.

They said the girl, who is now 16, was later diagnosed with a condition called reflex neurovascular dystrophy and has needed years of treatment, including surgery and physical therapy.

In addition, they said she was too afraid to go to school after the attack, continuing her education via correspondence courses.

The school district countered that nobody ever witnessed the alleged attack — which the girl said happened fast — even though there were numerous children around at the time.

Lawyers for the district also claimed there was no evidence playground supervisors were derelict in their duties that day, and that monitors cannot be everywhere at the same time.

Moreover, they also argued the school district was not liable because school officials were unaware of any impending trouble and that the boys who allegedly attacked the girl did not pose disciplinary problems.

Under the terms of the settlement, B.V. will receive just under $60,000 of the $135,000 settlement. Her parents, Edgar and Vicki Vertrees, get $3,500.

The girl’s Yakima attorneys, Blaine Tamaki and Bryan Smith, received $45,000 in attorneys fees. The Tamaki law firm also was reimbursed $20,824.76 in costs.

The balance of the settlement went to other costs, including roughly $4,500 in reimbursement to the state Department of Social and Health Services, which covered the girl’s medical bills.

n Chris Bristol can be reached at 577-7748 or at
cbristol@yakimaherald.com

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