Two teenage boys are each entitled to $3 million to $5 million from Los Angeles Unified to compensate them for their pain and suffering from being sexually abused by a former Pacoima school teacher, an attorney told a jury Wednesday.
Addressing a Los Angeles Superior Court panel hearing the trial of the suit brought on behalf of the boys, lawyer Vince Finaldi said the district has admitted liability for ex-Telfair Avenue Elementary School third-grade teacher Paul Chapel III’s actions, and now it is time to make sure the boys get what they deserve.
“Let LAUSD understand what accepting 100 percent of responsibility means,” Finaldi said.
Attorney Craig Barnes, on behalf of the district, argued that the boys should each receive just less than $500,000.
“We’re not disputing there was abuse,” Barnes said.
The attorney said both boys have done well in school despite their troubled histories with Chapel. The younger of the two plaintiffs attends a magnet campus, Barnes said.
“These boys have shown their resilience,” he said.
According to Finaldi, the LAUSD did not rush to apologize to the boys and waited until the case went to trial. The goal of the defense lawyers is to keep the amount of damages low while trying to distance the district from Chapel’s actions, he said.
“He was their guy, they put him in that classroom and they’re responsible for what he did to these kids,” Finaldi said.
The plaintiffs are now ages 14 and 13. The younger boy was a student of Chapel’s. The older child had a different teacher, but visited Chapel’s classroom often, saying he was enticed by Chapel’s offerings of his favorite candies. The molestations of the two plaintiffs took place within the time period of 2009-11.
The stigma from being abused will always be with both boys, Finaldi said.
“We do know this is the monster they’re going to see the rest of their lives,” Finaldi said.
Chapel took advantage of the boys, who came from disadvantaged backgrounds, the attorney argued.
“They were vulnerable,” Finaldi said.
In addition to their damages for pain and suffering, Finaldi recommended additional monies of about $890,000 for the older boy and about $300,000 for the other child to compensate them for lost earnings, medical expenses and vocational training.
Barnes said a total of $490,000 for the older boy and $470,000 for the other plaintiff is sufficient. He also scoffed at suggestions the LAUSD should have apologized sooner to the plaintiffs, saying it is widely known that opposing parties do not speak to each other during litigation.
Chapel, now 54, is serving a 25-year sentence imposed in 2012, after he pleaded no contest to molesting 13 boys during a roughly 4 1/2-year period.
The LAUSD previously reached a $5 million settlement with another group of former Telfair students in June 2014 and $4.42 million with three more former students in May.
— Wire reports