FEATURED
Southern California jury delivered a $135 million verdict in a molestation case
Fact checked
Share

$135 Million Verdict in Southern California Teacher Molestation Case

In recent legal news, a Southern California jury delivered a $135 million verdict in a molestation case involving a middle school teacher, with the court finding that negligence by the Moreno Valley Unified School District enabled the abuse of two students during the 1990s. The case highlights the crucial role that educational institutions play in protecting their students from harm and the significant consequences they can face if they fail to fulfill this responsibility.

 Key Points: 

  • A Southern California jury delivered a $135 million verdict in a molestation case involving a middle school teacher. 
  • The court found that negligence by the Moreno Valley Unified School District enabled the abuse of two students during the 1990s. 
  • The school district was determined to be 90% responsible for the damages, with the teacher responsible for 10%. 
  • The former teacher, Thomas Lee West, had previously been convicted of committing lewd acts with minors and is serving a 52 years-to-life sentence. 
  • The victims have suffered “life-long mental and emotional distress” as a result of the abuse. 

During the trial, the jurors determined that the school district was 90% responsible for the damages, while the former teacher, Thomas Lee West, was 10% responsible. This means that the district is on the hook for $121.5 million of the total verdict. The insurance coverage for the district is expected to cover only about 11% of this amount. This case serves as a stark reminder of the financial implications that can result from a failure to protect students. 

Thomas Lee West, the teacher involved in the case, had previously been convicted of committing lewd or lascivious acts with minors and is currently serving a 52 years-to-life sentence in Mule Creek State Prison. The civil lawsuit brought by the two former students claimed that they were repeatedly abused by West during 1996 and 1997 when they were sixth graders at Vista Heights Middle School east of Los Angeles. The lawsuit alleged that district officials should have known that West posed a threat to students and taken appropriate action to prevent the abuse. 

The psychological toll on the victims has been severe, with their lawyers stating that they have suffered “life-long mental and emotional distress” as a result of the abuse. “The psychological effects of the severe and pervasive abuse have left both men shells of who they would have been but for the abuse made possible by the District,” said the victims’ legal representation in a statement. 

Following the incidents, the district claims to have implemented numerous changes and continues to monitor and update industry best practices to prevent such abuse from occurring in the future. In a statement, the district acknowledged the lifelong impact of the traumatic experiences on the victims and expressed hope that they continue to recover from the incidents. 

In cases such as these, it becomes evident that educational institutions must uphold a stringent standard of vigilance and accountability to safeguard vulnerable demographics, such as student populations. Proactive measures are essential to ensure the safety and well-being of students, with a failure to adhere to these standards potentially resulting in significant legal and financial consequences. 

Get a free legal case review today

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Related Stories