PLAINTIFFS' TRIAL BRIEF

Filed with the SUPERIOR COURT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, WASHINGTON
Jan. 22nd 2003
HIGH, Plaintiffs, vs.
PASCO SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants.

This case is an action brought by the parents of a junior high school boy who committed suicide on September 29, 1998, as a consequence of a major depressive episode brought on by his violent beating at the hands of a known school bully at the school gymnasium.  The case was previously the subject of a motion for summary judgment by the defendant school district, and the court is encouraged to review the summary judgment briefing and Judge B.'s resulting order, before reviewing the trial briefs of the parties.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In the spring of 1998, Jared High was an excited 12 year old boy, who had just been selected as a 6th grader to be the manager of the 8th grade “B” baseball team.  A special education student, he became the target of an 8th grade bully, who subsequently terrorized him, beat him up and threatened to kill him, all on the premises of Pasco Public School District No. 1 (“the District,” hereafter).  On May 6, 1998, the bully, Andrew S., found Jared alone in the gym after a baseball practice, where Jared had gone to call his brother to come pick him up and take him home.  Andrew S. was not only two years older than Jared, he was nearly double Jared’s size: 177+ pounds vs. 96 pounds, according to both boys’ medical records.  Andrew S. assaulted Jared, beating him badly enough for a physician two days later to find contusions on his back, neck, abdomen and right thumb.  Blood was found in his urine.  Jared had also been vomiting for two days after the beating, and complained of diarrhea and inability to sleep.  His family chiropractor took comparison x-rays, which showed a spinal deviation apparent even to a lay person.

The middle school vice principal who handled the matter with the boys the next day interviewed the bully and the victim at the same time, and concluded that it was a “mutually engaged fight.”  Without referring to either boy’s prior conduct and discipline history, and in violation of the District’s policy of progressive and equitable discipline, he suspended both boys for three days, and Jared was sent outside, alone, to wait for someone to come take him home.

A special education student, Jared had difficulty with language, both written and spoken, receptive and expressive, and math.  Andrew S. was bright and articulate, with a “bad boy” attitude and a long history of anger and violence, stretching back to the second grade.

A few days later, Andrew accosted Jared in the locker room at McLoughlin Middle School, and threatened to kill him.  He was given a long-term suspension , upon which he requested a hearing.  On May 14, 1998, a hearing was held, and solely on the basis of his conduct during his eighth grade year, Andrew S. was found to present “a clear threat to safety and welfare of the other students and staff . . .at McLoughlin Middle School.”  The suspension would last through the end of the school year, so S. was referred to the R.E.A.C.H. Alternative Middle School to finish out the year.  The administrator for that program interviewed S. and looked at his discipline record, and concluded that the boy presented too great a threat to the safety of the program’s staff and students, and refused to accept him.

The High family will testify about the extent to which this beating and unfair punishment changed Jared High.  Even after the physical trauma had mostly subsided by the end of July, he had become a different boy: sullen, irritable, crying easily, complaining all summer of being unable to sleep at night, tired and listless during the day, losing interest in the things he had enjoyed before, isolating himself from the rest of the family.  He had a substantial weight gain at the end of the summer.  His family was psychologically unsophisticated, and did not recognize until too late the symptoms of the depression that finally caused Jared to take his own life.

In August, Jared and his parents, decided to transfer him to Hanford Middle School rather than to return to McLoughlin.  He started school at Hanford in September, a few days late.  He established quick friendships, and indicated to family and friends that he liked the school much better than McLoughlin, but he was not allowed to participate in sports due to the history of "convulsions" for three days from the beating by S.   He continued to have difficulty in school, and was not doing his homework.  The depression which had dogged him during the summer continued.

He had a birthday party the weekend after his birthday, September 23, when he turned thirteen.  Most of the kids who attended the party were new friends from Hanford.  He’d invited several kids to his party upon meeting them for the first time.  Some attendees noticed at times that Jared seemed to isolate himself from the group, but all in all he appeared to enjoy the party, and his guests enjoyed themselves.

On September 28, Jared went home from school with a friend to the friend’s house, after telling his mother of his plan when she came to pick him up.  After she brought him home that evening, she and his father talked with him about his continuing failure to do his homework, because he had not brought his books home.  After some discussion, Mr. High asked Jared how he could help Jared with his homework if he didn’t even bring his books home.  Jared shrugged his shoulders and went to bed.

The next morning, Mrs. High had difficulty getting Jared out of bed and out of his room to go to school.  He climbed a tree in the back yard, and refused to come down or go to school.  After discussing the situation with her husband several times during her efforts, she finally relented, and told him he did not have to go to school, but could not watch television, a long-standing family rule when children stayed home from school. She called her husband at his work, distraught, and related the morning events.  They agreed that Jared had not been himself since the beating, and that they should get him into counseling.  She was late for work, put the television set in the car to enforce the rule, and left for work.

Mr. High was at his desk, looking at his firm’s benefits booklet to figure out how to arrange counseling for Jared, when the telephone rang.  It was Jared, who announced he had just called to say “Goodbye.”  Mr. High tried to engage him in conversation, but there was no response, and he heard a “pop,” a sound like something falling, and then silence.  Not knowing what to think, he drove home.  He found his son on the floor of the family in-home office, dead from a bullet wound to his head, with the telephone off the hook and a .22 pistol on the floor next to him.  Mr. High had thought the handgun secretly hidden in a master-bedroom drawer, separately from the magazine.  He had trained Jared how to shoot, and the basics of gun safety.  Touching any of his guns without his presence and consent was forbidden.  The children were not allowed in the parents’ bedroom in their absence.  He did not know Jared knew where the handgun was located, and does not know to this day when or how Jared found it or the magazine.

When one of the officers who responded to the 911 call asked why Jared might do such a thing, Mr. High commented that Jared had not been himself since the beating.  When told the name of Jared's assailant, two of the police officers indicated they knew of Andrew. S. ("Oh yes, we know him!")

This action is brought by Jared High’s parents for the loss of their relationship with their son, and their loss of his love and companionship. Mrs. High also brings this action as Personal Representative of his estate.

TRIAL ISSUES

The following are the issues to be decided by this court or tried to the jury::

1. Given the District’s actual and imputed knowledge of the risk of harm Andrew S. presented to other students, was the District negligent in its prior handling of Andrew S’ long-standing behavior problems, discipline and discipline records? See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief01.html

2.  Was the District negligent in its supervision of Andrew S. and the location of the beating on May 6, 1998?  See - Jury Instructions: 

3.  Was the District negligent in its investigation of the assault on Jared High, and its decision to punish the victim of that assault equally with the perpetrator?  See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief03.htmlMore information at a later time.

4.  Has the District wrongfully destroyed evidence of Andrew S’ prior conduct and its knowledge of that conduct? [This issue is the subject of a separate pre-trial motion and brief, and will not be further addressed here.]  (The District abused the discovery process and wrongfully withheld production of a pertinent District Policy and Procedure, relating to the creation and retention of student discipline records, # 3600 and #3600P)  See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief04.htmlMore information at a later time.

5.  Did Andrew S. commit the intentional tort of assault of Jared High on May 6, 1998?  See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief04.htmland The Assault on Jared High..

6.  Are C. S. and J. R. H. liable for the intentional conduct of  Andrew S.?   See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief06.html

7.  Was the negligence and intentional conduct of the defendants a proximate cause of Jared High’s development of a major depressive psychological condition which gave rise to an irresistible impulse to kill himself?   See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief04.htmland the Declaration of Dr. Alan Berman - The Forseeable Consequences of Bullying.

8.  Is there any evidence that would allow a jury to conclude that Mr. or Mrs. High were guilty of willful and wanton misconduct with regard to the death of their son?   See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief08.html

9.  What damages are legally recoverable by Mr. and Mrs. High and Jared’s estate as a result of his death?   See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief09.html

10.  Is intentional conduct of Andrew S. or Jared High “fault” to be allocated?  See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief10.html

11.  Should the jury be instructed on forseeability as an issue of causation as well as an issue in the determination of the school district's duty?   See - http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief11.html

CONCLUSION

Plaintiffs will show that the defendant District and defendants S. and H. were negligent in their supervision and discipline of Andrew S., and that the District negligently investigated the assault and wrongfully punished equally the perpetrator and the victim.  It is clear that Andrew S. assaulted Jared High.  The evidence will indicate that these physical and psychological traumas caused this vulnerable child to develop a major depressive condition which gave rise to an irresistible impulse to kill himself.

His parents are entitled to recover damages against the defendants for the expenses associated with Jared’s injury treatment and death, and their loss of the love and companionship of their son, their grief and mental anguish and the loss of their relationship with Jared High.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED this 22nd day of January, 2003.

RICHTER-WIMBERLEY, P.S.
By: Jay E. Leipham, WSBA # 4961
(Attorney for Brenda High)
 

TRIAL ISSUES
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief01.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief02.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief03.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief04.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief06.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief08.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief09.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief10.html
http://www.jaredstory.com/trial_brief11.html

 

HIGH v. PASCO SCHOOL DISTRICT
The Lawsuit

PLAINTIFFS' TRIAL BRIEF & FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Complaint for Damages
THE SETTLEMENT
The Rest of the Story
The Assault
Suicide - The Forseeable Consequences of Bullying
Why the Pasco School District wouldn't help Jared

Court Case about Videos on a bus & bullying

 

HEAR JARED'S VOICE - PLAY - From an interview with Pasco School District investigators concerning the assault.  This is a recording of a recording and it isn't real clear, but worth the download effort.  Jared had a real mellow voice.   Note: If you have a slow load wav, wait for it to load entirely and then play again from the start.   5 minutes long

 

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