Smith v Black Butte Union Elementary School District---Child Sexual Abuse Case- Shasta County CA- December 22, 2023- DEFENSE VERDICT- 10-2

The demand prior to trial was $1M and the defendant school district offered $20,000.

This case stemmed from allegations of sexual abuse and rape in 1981 when plaintiff was in 8th grade. Plaintiff alleged that her basketball coach/volleyball coach and bus driver employed by the Black Butte School District groomed her on campus. The grooming occurred on school grounds but eventually escalated to include sexual abuse and rape off campus when she was a virgin at age 13. She never told anyone about it except her best friend until she filed the complaint. The perpetrator died about 6 years ago before the complaint was filed. Plaintiff retained a psychologist, Dr. Barnard, who testified that plaintiff has suffered from PTSD, depression, and anxiety for her entire life as a result of the abuse and will continue to suffer for the rest of her life. Plaintiff claimed the sexual abuse had ruined her life. She married at 19 and had 3 kids but eventually separated from her husband. She had not received any therapy in her life, but indicated she would in the future. At trial, plaintiff dropped all her claims for economic damages. Plaintiff’s counsel asked for $6.7M in closing argument, all general damages for emotional distress.

The defense argued that the school had never received any complaints about the bus driver/coach and had no reason to suspect he was a pedophile. He was never reported by plaintiff or anyone else before 1981. The former principal/superintendent and several staff testified they had no knowledge or suspicion the coach had abused her or anyone else. The defense did not have an expert and did not dispute plaintiff was abused. Defendant alleged that the school had no reason to believe the coach was an abuser and most of the potential witnesses from 1981 were dead or gone. Additionally, the most egregious abuse occurred over the summer after school was out and off of school property. Due to plaintiff’s delay in filing the complaint, there were no policy and procedures or personnel files, admitted at trial. The defense also claimed that plaintiff failed to meet her burden and failed to mitigate her damages by not going to therapy for 42 years.

The jury deliberated for about 2.5 hours and came back with a defense verdict on a 10-2 vote on December 22, 2023.