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Lodi Unified School District to pay family of student assaulted by bus driver $4.75 million

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Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 10:17 am

The Lodi Unified School District has agreed to a $4.75 million settlement in the case of a special-needs student who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a former bus driver.

The settlement was announced Tuesday in San Joaquin County Superior Court and at a press conference outside the Stockton courthouse by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

A jury unanimously determined that the school district was liable for hiring Richard Dale Evans despite district officials’ knowledge that Evans had a misdemeanor conviction for having sex with a prostitute in downtown Stockton.

“(Lodi Unified) didn’t check for references,” Vince Finaldi, an attorney for the plaintiff, said at the press conference. “They said they relied on intuition.”

A $4.2 million settlement was offered in late October, but Lodi Unified officials and the district’s insurance company, Nor Cal Relief, rejected the offer, Finaldi said.

Nor Cal Relief is a self-insurance that is funded by tax dollars from the 330-member public school districts, Lodi Unified Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said in an emailed statement.

“Lodi Unified School District is pleased that Nor Cal Relief and the plaintiffs in this case have reached a settlement that will provide resources for the family of the student who was harmed,” Nichols-Washer said in her emailed statement Tuesday afternoon. “The district regards this situation very seriously.”

Attorney Marina Pitts, representing the school district, wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday.

In a 2011 criminal trial, Evans pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child molestation, including kidnapping and lewd acts on a minor. He received a 25-year prison sentence.

The victim, who was 8 at the time and is now 11, is suffering from fear, anxiety and emotional distress, according to the two-page claim filed in the lawsuit.

The jury in the civil trial determined on Feb. 27 that Lodi Unified was 90 percent liable and Evans 10 percent. The second phase of the trial, to determine how much in damages Evans and the school district should pay the child’s family, was scheduled to be completed by the end of the week.

“I think this settlement is the first step in the family’s recovery,” said Ken Meleyco, another attorney for the plaintiff. “This child needs therapy right away, and with this settlement, she’ll get it.”

Meleyco and Finaldi said they hope the enormity of the settlement will prompt school district trustees and administrators to change their hiring practices.

Lodi Unified administrators said during the trial that they followed the same procedures for years, Meleyco said. They knew that Evans pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of having sex with a prostitute in a potato chip delivery truck in 2000, yet Lodi Unified hired him as a full-time school bus driver in 2004, Meleyco said.

“How that can be is beyond me,” Finaldi said. “Something’s got to be done in this district.”

Nichols-Washer was unavailable for comment Tuesday about the possibility of changing board policy.

“The health and safety of our students is the highest priority for Lodi Unified School District,” Nichols-Washer said in her emailed statement. “We understand how important this is to the parents of our community who entrust their children to us each day.”

Evans was fired in November 2010 after the girl told her parents about the incidents, Meleyco said. The two incidents, in October and November 2010, were filmed by videotape.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • robert maurer posted at 9:06 am on Mon, Mar 11, 2013.

    mason day Posts: 437

    Where there is one victim, there are usually more. How much more will it cost the taxpayers if there are,now that a precedent has been set. For that kind of money,a foundation or clinic could be established in the victim's name to help other victims of these sick types of violations. My heart goes out to the victims and their families of these crimes. The perverts need to be stopped by any means, so that children can be children and grow up in a safe environment.

  • Doug Chaney posted at 7:51 am on Mon, Mar 11, 2013.

    advocate Posts: 499

    Ms. Dean, not only LUSD but ALL city of Lodi council, management, staff, including LPD and LFD. Why do these employees get a free pass. And since alcohol has now been given the status of an addicting drug it should be included in the testing schedule.

  • Betty Dean posted at 12:49 am on Sun, Mar 10, 2013.

    Betty Dean Posts: 144

    LUSD should conduct yesrly fingerprinting as well as drug screening for ALL employees. Sad for this family they deserve every penny!

  • barbara wells posted at 7:16 pm on Sat, Mar 9, 2013.

    barbara wells Posts: 24

    Jacobs, You betcha, and the kids in Lodi Unified School District will be out of a few computers at the least.

  • Robert Jacobs posted at 3:48 pm on Sat, Mar 9, 2013.

    Robert Jacobs Posts: 298

    I bet you mom and dad own a new home and two brand new cars this time next year...



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