Howd & Ludorf, LLC Wins Jury Trial for Westport School District in Bias/Assault Case
Howd & Ludorf, LLC Partner, Alexandria Voccio, recently secured a defendant’s verdict for the Westport School District, its Superintendent and a school teacher after a jury trial in the Superior Court for the Stamford Judicial District. The suit Karlen v. Westport School District et al., stemmed from an incident that occurred during a 12 minute 7th grade homeroom class. The plaintiff was sitting at a computer in the back of the class playing a game. According to the plaintiff, two male students pulled his chair out from under him, and repeatedly called him a “fag and/or faggot,” and while he was kneeling on the ground, repeatedly jumped on the backs of his legs/ankles – one on each side of him. The two boys admitted that one of them pulled the chair back, but claimed that the plaintiff voluntarily moved to the ground to continue playing on the computer. Both boys admitted nudging/kicking the plaintiffs legs to get him off the computer. One boy denied calling the plaintiff a “fag or faggot”. The other boy admitted stating once, “stop being a fag, get off the computer,” and explained that he used the term to mean “annoying or a jerk.” The entire incident lasted 2-5 minutes.
The homeroom teacher, who was sued for negligent supervision, was in the class the entire time. He never saw or heard anything concerning the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff testified that he repeatedly stated “stop,” and “help,” and ended with “can someone help me please,” with his voice louder each time. Attorney Voccio elicited testimony from the two boys that the calls for help never occurred. She also demonstrated that the homeroom teacher had a blocked sightline to the computer due to other students crowding around, and could not have prevented the sudden occurrence between the Plaintiff and the two classmates. The court granted Attorney Voccio’s Motion for Directed Verdict in favor of the Superintendent and the School District; and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the homeroom teacher after deliberating for 5 hours.