SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A jury yesterday said the Snohomish School District must pay $1.3 million to settle claims of negligence following the assault of two Snohomish High School girls by a mentally unstable classmate on Oct. 24, 2011, family attorney Sim Osborn of Osborn Machler announced today.
A female student attacked fellow classmates April Lutz and a friend, both 14 years old at the time, in a Snohomish High School bathroom, stabbing Lutz 13 times with a homemade weapon fashioned from a butcher knife attached to a pipe. The assailant turned on Lutz’s friend when she intervened to rescue Lutz, also assaulting her with the knife, according to the lawsuit. The attack ended only after Lutz’s friend escaped to seek help from teachers and students.
Lutz’s heart stopped three times on the way to the hospital from a knife blow that pierced her heart, leaving her in critical condition, and her friend sustained severe wounds to her back and arm that required many stitches, according to the complaint.
The victims’ families filed a lawsuit against the Snohomish School District in June 2012 in the Superior Court of Washington in King County, alleging that the district failed to take steps to prevent the attack despite obvious signs that the assailant posed a danger to other students and had a history of violent behavior.
According to school records, as early as April 2011, the assailant confided in a school counselor that she was having repeated violent fantasies of injuring and killing people. The lawsuit states that the district expelled her from school after she threatened to kill a friend’s boyfriend by stabbing him. After five days of outpatient mental health treatment, the assailant was allowed to return to school in early May, the complaint states.
“April and her friend were attacked in what parents and students are led to believe is a safe place – their high school – and the verdict proves the school district patently failed to take the most basic common sense precautions to protect the girls from a foreseeable danger,” said Sim Osborn, attorney representing Lutz. “All of the warning signs were there, but no one opened their eyes, communicated with one another or took steps to safeguard students from a deeply disturbed classmate.”
According to Osborn, the assault illuminates a wide-spread problem impacting schools nationwide.
“This incident is not an anomaly, yet in most instances, these premeditated acts of school violence are entirely preventable,” remarked Osborn. “The assailant’s threats formed a clear pattern of violence, and similarly, our nation is witnessing a macrocosmic pattern of violence in schools.”
The assailant was charged with first-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault, and in March 2012, she pled guilty to charges for which she will serve 13 years in incarceration. Other parties named in the suit, including the mental-health facility and the attacker’s parents, elected to settle out of court.
“The only way we can force change is through monetary payment,” added Osborn. “April and her parents would avoid this situation at any cost if possible, because they know no amount of money will restore April’s lost sense of security, or fully heal her emotional and physical wounds. What this verdict can change is how schools behave in the future.”
About Osborn Machler
The attorneys at Osborn Machler represent plaintiffs in personal injury, products liability, and professional malpractice cases. Osborn Machler is noted for taking difficult cases and successfully taking them to settlement or trial. The firm has extensive experience representing injured persons against federal, state, and local governments. You can learn more about the firm, its cases and expertise at www.osbornmachler.com.