A judge has rejected Lodi Unified School District's request to dismiss a lawsuit relating to the molestation of a special-needs student by a bus driver.
The civil action alleges that district officials hired part-time bus driver Richard Dale Evans in 2003, despite knowing he had a misdemeanor conviction for having sex with a Stockton prostitute in a delivery truck just a few years prior.
Evans pleaded guilty last year to multiple counts of child molestation, including kidnapping and lewd acts on a minor. He molested a 9-year-old girl on a school bus in November 2010. Evans was sentenced to 25 years, four months in prison.
The girl's family, represented by Stockton lawyer Ken Meleyco, say the district was wrong to hire Evans in the first place.
Court documents show Evans was convicted in 2000 of engaging a prostitute in a vehicle owned by his employer at the time, Frito-Lay. He served five days in custody and three years probation.
The conviction was expunged, but Evans divulged it when he applied to become a part-time driver for Lodi Unified, according to court documents.
District lawyers argued the case should be dismissed because state law does not preclude hiring someone with such a conviction as a school bus driver.
Meleyco, however, argued the hiring was negligent, even if permissible under state law, as Evans would be in direct contact with children, including those with special needs.
He contended that the district should have known, based on the misdemeanor conviction, that Evans might commit a sex crime, on the job, while in an employer-owned vehicle.
Superior Court Judge Linda Loftus denied the district's request for summary judgment, meaning the case can proceed. That denial was affirmed Oct. 26. A trial date of Nov. 26 has been set.
"At this point, the district has to decide if they want to settle or go to a jury trial," Meleyco said.
District officials Friday declined comment on the ruling.