Thursday, March 12, 2009

District Settles Lawsuit; Are We Losing Money from the General Fund Over It?

Update: I spoke with David Tucker in the Communications department. The answer to the differing accounts from the PI and the Times in terms of payment is something in the middle. Yes, a $1M is coming from the General Fund but it WAS in the budget this year (i.e. the district knew they would be settling this lawsuit) and is NOT an additional $1M leaving the budget. The other $14M is coming from district insurance.

There were two articles this morning, one in the PI (hang in there PI!) and one in the Times, about the district settling a lawsuit with a West Seattle High School student who was disabled in an accident at wrestling practice. The coaches allegedly didn't have enough mats or training and the student was permanently injured. The settlement was for $15M.

But the Times says:

"School district spokesman David Tucker late Wednesday confirmed the settlement amount and said the bulk of the settlement would be paid by the district's insurer, Washington Schools Risk Management Pool. Tucker said the district had accounted for $1 million of the settlement in its budget."

But the PI says:

"The settlement was reached on the deadline day set by attorneys. The payment is covered by the school district's insurance carrier, but had it been more than $15 million, the difference would have come directly from the district, Connelly said.

"Settlement at this amount also prevented the district from having to use district funds for the settlement," he said."

Now Connelly is the plaintiff's attorney so maybe he misspoke. I'll have to check with the district.

I personally have no problem with this settlement. District staff should have done better. Accidents happen but if the staff allegedly did not have the training needed or set up the area safely then the district is responsible. But losing $1M out of the general fund would certainly be a setback for the district at this point and would likely mean more cuts.

1 comment:

seattle citizen said...

First, my condolences to the injured student.


Wow. Really speaks to caution and procedure, doesn't it? A) no offical training for the coach, so the district is libel. b) ONE mat out, when others were nearby...Libel.

These are seemingly little oversights ("ah, we need a coach and Joe'll do it! Good man! All the students need is a cert around!" and "ach, it's too hard to drag all the mats out") that cost 15 million.

What other little actions are taken every day that could have these huge repercussions? "Yes, I can drive you home, even tho' I don't have the district license to transport...""Oh, sure, have an aspirin..."

I hope this results in some time spent in schools going over proper (and legal) procedures for every little thing, and I hope school employees a) think about these liabilities, but b) don't become scared and cold automatons, avoiding everything out of fear of a lawsuit...

Ach. It's a hard thing.