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LAUSD to pay $15 million to parents of boy who died during PE class

A person walks past a sign on a concrete wall identifying the Los Angeles Unified School District offices
A pedestrian walks past the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District in Los Angeles. On Friday the district was found liable for the 2016 death of a teen who collapsed during a gym class.
(Frederic Brown / AFP via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Unified School District was found liable Friday for the 2016 death of a 13-year-old boy who collapsed during a PE class at Palms Middle School and was not treated with a defibrillator by school staff, court documents show.

The jury unanimously awarded the boy’s family $15 million.

The verdict stems from a lawsuit filed against the district in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July 2017. The case went to trial last week.

The family is “gratified that the jury rendered a verdict in their favor” but “have been devastated by the loss of their son,” attorney Gary Casselman said in an interview with The Times.

“Nothing will bring him back, but they wanted accountability from the district,” said Casselman, who filed the case on behalf of the family that was tried in court by attorney Haytham Faraj.

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District officials did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Friday evening.

The boy was jogging around the school track on the morning of April 25, 2016, when he collapsed and began to gasp for air, according to the complaint.

Multiple teachers attending to the boy, who was unresponsive. The called 911 but did not use an automated external defibrillator, or AED, that was in the school’s front office.

Emergency medical personnel arrived at the school around 10 minutes after the boy collapsed.

He was hospitalized for two days before he died on April 27.

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The district had distributed the defibrillators to schools, but failed to properly inform staff and teachers that they were available, Casselman said.

During the 911 call, a dispatcher asked a teacher if a defibrillator was available, Cassleman said. The teacher responded no.

“They can’t seem to get their act together to get lifesaving equipment into the schools and to get notice to this staff and the teachers,” Casselman said.

The case bears striking similarities to a lawsuit the district settled last fall for $9 million with the family of a boy who died after running laps at Dodson Middle School in 2018.

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After finishing his laps, the boy lay in the grass and did not get up with other children to drink water. Two teachers saw that the boy was unconscious but breathing and did not call 911, perform CPR or administer the AED.

The school nurse did not know the school had a defibrillator, attorneys in the case said.

“This keeps happening and, hopefully, this will be a wake-up call, but its way too late for the people who’ve died,” Casselman said.

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