RIVERSIDE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A Riverside County jury has delivered a $135,000,000 verdict to two former Moreno Valley Unified School District students who were sexually abused by their teacher and failed by the school district entrusted to protect them. For 20 years, the Moreno Valley Unified School District employed child predator Thomas Lee West as a teacher, despite having actual notice of numerous child molestation complaints against him dating back to 1988. Plaintiffs were represented in the case and at trial by Spencer Lucas, Brian Panish, Matthew Freeman, and Diana Panish of Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP.
"While there is no amount of money that can replace what was stolen from these two men, we are grateful to the jury for holding the Moreno Valley Unified School District accountable for their unconscionable acts that robbed these men of their childhood," said Spencer Lucas.
"It took 27 years and tremendous courage from both plaintiffs to testify in the criminal and civil trials, but today Brady and Justin received the justice they deserve," said Brian Panish.
Plaintiffs Brady Blair and Justin McGregor attended Vista Heights Middle School and were assigned to West's sixth grade classroom during the 1996 to 1997 school year. Before the end of the school year, West was sexually abusing both Brady and Justin and the abuse continued into the boys' Sophomore year in high school. When the sexual abuse ended, West maintained his control over the boys through coercion, threats, and computer tracking and keylogging software, manipulating them from reporting their abuse.
In 2003 following the boys' high school graduation, Brady reported the abuse to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. West was arrested and charged with violations of Penal Code section 288(a) committing “any lewd or lascivious act” with a minor child under 14 years of age. At the criminal trial, West was found guilty. He is currently serving a 52 years to life sentence in the Mule Creek State Prison.
As a result of the abuse, Brady and Justin have suffered severe, life-long mental and emotional distress throughout their lives. The psychological effects of the severe and pervasive abuse have left both men shells of who they would have been but for the abuse made possible by the District.
Prior to and throughout trial, counsel for Defendant Moreno Valley Unified School District denied responsibility for West's conduct. Although they later admitted negligence, the School District attempted to shift blame for the Plaintiffs' injuries to the perpetrator and the parents of the Plaintiffs. These arguments were not persuasive to the jury.
The jury disagreed and rendered their verdict in favor of Plaintiffs, awarding them a combined total of $135,000,000. The jury apportioned 90 percent of the fault to the Moreno Valley Unified School District and 10 percent to the perpetrator, Thomas Lee West.
Defendant Moreno Valley Unified School District is represented by Dana McCune, Esq., Dominic Quiller, Esq., and David Guillen, Esq. of McCune & Harber, LLP.
Blair v. Moreno Valley Unified School District
Superior Court of the State of California, County of Riverside
Case No. CVRI2102718
Hon. Chad W. Firetag