The Lodi Unified School District has refused to release a figure on how much it settled out of court with a former Lodi High School student who was resuscitated after suffering cardiac arrest during physical education class.
The action came less than a week before the jury trial was set to begin and two years after Adam Kloose sued the district and Medtronic, Inc., the manufacturer of the heart defibrillator used by school staff. Kloose claimed in the suit filed in San Joaquin County that a faulty machine caused him brain damage.
Both Kloose's attorney, R.J. Waldsmith, and the district's Modesto-based attorney, Jeffrey Olson, refused to say how much the district settled for because there were other non-public parties involved, according to Doug Barge, the district's chief financial officer who oversees litigation.
Board president Richard Jones declined to comment, instead forwarding all legal questions to Olson, who was out of the office Friday.
But legal adviser Jim Ewert, of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said that under both the state's public record act and open meeting law, the district is legally required to not only provide a settlement figure, but also the settlement contract showing how much taxpayer money was used.
"It doesn't matter," Ewert said of the other parties' involvement. "The case involves public funds. The law prohibits (withholding settlement information)."
Further, he said, three recent court cases prohibit any government agency from entering into confidential settlement agreements.
When reached late Friday on her cell phone, Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said she did not have all of the details surrounding the case or its settlement, but would provide the information after a public records request is made.
"We will follow the law," she added.
In November, during closed session, the school board discussed the litigation and provided settlement authorization, essentially turning the issue over to the attorneys involved. No other information was provided because "disclosure would jeopardize existing settlement negotiations," according to the Nov. 18 agenda.
Later in the month, the district filed its settlement with the court, but details were not made public. On Dec. 29, the district requested from the court that the case be closed, and exactly a month later, Kloose's attorney followed with the same action and the trial date set was vacated, according to court documents.
A jury trial had been scheduled to begin earlier this month.
According to reports, Kloose collapsed before a game of dodge ball and went into a cardiac arrest on Nov. 4, 2005. After Kloose's body convulsed on the gymnasium floor, he lay motionless, his face turning purple, while PE teachers gave him CPR.
Another teacher retrieved from a nearby room an automated external defibrillator, which uses an electric shock to revive a stopped heart. The machine failed to work, and paramedics with their own defibrillator worked on Kloose for 10 minutes and resuscitated the student before taking him to Lodi Memorial Hospital.
But in an e-mail Friday, Waldsmith, the student's attorney, said the litigation was not aimed at the teachers and "their heroic efforts" but at the district's alleged neglect to keep the machine maintained.
"After the incident, it was discovered that the battery pack on the Lodi High School's AED had expired. An icon visible on the outside of the AED indicated that the machine needed servicing," Waldsmith said.
"(Kloose) suffered a brain injury because someone did not do their job, and his case was about holding that person accountable."
Waldsmith has said there are gaps in Kloose's memory and he has some permanent brain damage.
The student could not be reached for comment.
Kloose, formerly of Stockton, filed a claim with the district in May 2006, but it was rejected two weeks later. A claim filed against a public agency is typically a precursor to a lawsuit, which was filed in November 2006.
Last spring, the district filed a countersuit against Medtronic, claiming in court papers that the defibrillator company should bear liability, if any exists. In the documents filed in San Joaquin County court, the district also called Kloose's suit "a sham" and "frivolous."
In court papers, Minnesota-based Medtronic and its affiliates blame Lodi Unified for the defibrillator's failure, claiming the district failed to perform routine maintenance on it.
Katecho, Inc., an Iowa-based medical device manufacturer, was also named in the suit. Legal representatives for neither could be reached for comment.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.
This story was updated at 1 p.m. March 2, 2009. Adam Kloose is not a student at California State University, Fresno, nor did he graduate from high school a month after he was resucitated. The information was incorrect in an earlier version of the story.