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COA affirms $120,000 for student attacked at school

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A former Gary high school student is entitled to $120,000 in damages following an attack in a hallway during school, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. Gary Community School Corp. appealed the jury award.

Prince Lardydell was a freshman at West Side High School when he was attacked in the hallway by several individuals for nearly 10 minutes. A teacher heard the attack and pressed a panic button. He had screamed for help but school safety personnel did not arrive until after the attack had ended and his attackers fled.

He and his mother, Erma, sued the school corporation. At trial, Andrea Ledbetter, who served on the school corporation’s board at the time of the attack, testified about a video of the attack she watched during an executive session. The jury found in favor of the Lardydells and awarded $120,000.

GCS argued the trial court shouldn’t have let Ledbetter testify about the video she watched during the executive session because the doctrine of qualified privilege applies to all discussions held during its board’s executive sessions.

Indiana’s Open Door Law is silent as to whether discussions during executive sessions are privileged or whether persons present during an executive session can be barred from disclosing what occurred during an executive session. GCS does not cite to any authority which has applied the doctrine of qualified privilege, or any other privilege, to bar board members of public agencies from testifying about all discussions during executive sessions, Senior Judge Card Darden wrote in Gary Community School Corporation v. Prince Lardydell b/n/f Erma Lardydell, 45A03-1306-PL-230.  

Ledbetter described in detail to the jury the video, a video that was not among those that GCS had disclosed to the Lardydells during discovery. The COA noted that Ledbetter complied with the trial court’s limitation that she not testify about communications that occurred during executive sessions.

GCS also argued the trial court erred in giving Final Instruction 12 because it misstated the law and allowed the jury to determine that GCS was negligent without first deciding whether the school breached the standard of ordinary and reasonable care. The instruction merely provided that if the Lardydells proved certain facts “beyond the weight of the evidence,” then the jury “may infer” negligence. The jury wasn’t obligated by the terms of the instruction to find negligence and GCS was free to submit evidence to rebut any inference of negligence, the judges held.

The school corporation also claimed the trial court should have granted its motion for a new trial or to alter or amend the judgment because the $120,000 award is unsupported by the evidence. Before the attack, Prince had aspirations to attend college and was an average student. After the attack, he experienced severe depression, was afraid to go outside and moved to Indianapolis. His academic performance also suffered at his new high school. Even six years after the attack, he is only able to find part-time work and is still concerned about leaving his house.

The Court of Appeals declined to second-guess the jury’s decision.   
 

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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