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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. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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