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Lawsuit against La Cañada school district over injured student settled a week before trial

A December 2016 photo depicts bleachers at La Cañada High School’s Hotchkin Family Gymnasium, where student Ethan Kalnins fell earlier that year during a school assembly. Attorneys for Kalnins’ family said railings would have prevented the fall.
( Courtesy of Panish Shea & Boyle)

A lawsuit against La Cañada Unified School District filed in July 2016 on behalf of a La Cañada High School student who was injured after falling from bleachers during a school assembly has been settled, according to the family’s attorney.

Robert Glassman, a Los Angeles attorney representing the family of now-senior Ethan Kalnins, confirmed Saturday the two parties reached a settlement agreement on April 10, one week before the case was scheduled to appear before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in a jury trial.

Glassman said he was unable to comment on the case or the settlement, pending approval by LCUSD school board members.

A student with cerebral palsy, Kalnins had been attending an end-of-the-year assembly in the Hotchkin Family Gymnasium on May 20, 2016, when he fell from the bleachers and fractured his left hip. Glassman claimed the telescopic bleachers were missing guardrails that could have prevented Kalnins’ fall.


A safety and engineering expert, who inspected the bleachers in December of that year, found the guardrails that were supposed to be installed on the bleachers locked up in a corner of the gym.

Then-Chief Business and Operating Officer Mark Evans testified in a deposition custodians at the high school had admitted the guardrails had “been there for several years. And they simply had not ever installed them to their memory,” according to court documents.

Glassman said in an interview in December he was seeking compensation for the cost of Kalnins’ past and future medical care and for the suffering he endured and continues to endure to this day. LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said Tuesday an agreeable settlement was preferable to bringing the case to court.

“We care deeply about the student, and if we were able to reach a settlement both parties could sign off on, that’s better than going to a trial, where there’s an automatic element of the parties being adversarial,” the superintendent said.


LCUSD Governing Board members will vote on the settlement in a future closed-session meeting, Sinnette added.

Twitter: @SaraCardine