The parents of an 8-year-old special-needs child who died in 2017 less than a week after falling out of his chair in class said Wednesday they settled their negligence/wrongful death suit against the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District for $18 million.
The settlement was announced in court on Aug. 2, when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Whitaker dismissed the district, then-Superintendent Cynthia Parulan-Colfer and Sunset Elementary School in La Puente as defendants in the case. The suit was brought by Martin Murrillo and Roberta Gomez, the father and mother of the late Moises Murillo.
At the time, the settlement terms were not divulged. But the Murrillo family held a news conference Wednesday and said the agreement was for $18 million.
“We were five of us and now we’re down to four,” Moises’ sister, Liz, told reporters. “One of them is gone. Not because it was a natural cause of death, but it was caused by somebody’s irresponsibility.
“… It’s just sad how somebody’s irresponsibility could damage somebody eternally for life,” she said.
The boy was diagnosed with Down syndrome at an early age and admitted to an individualized education program at Sunset School in March 2012, the suit brought in January 2018 stated. The boy suffered critical injuries when he fell out of a classroom chair that was supposed to have a safety restraint engaged and fractured his neck on May 31, 2017, the suit stated.
The boy went into cardiac arrest and was initially taken to Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina, then transferred to Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange, where he died June 4, 2017, the suit stated.
“Compulsory education laws created a special relationship between students and (school districts) and students have a constitutional guarantee to a safe, secure and peaceful school environment,” according to the suit, which alleged the district “failed to provide safe surroundings … including … allowing (Moises) to be unsupervised and unrestrained during his class.”
Parulan-Colfer, other district administrators and the school staff did not have a policy in place to adequately supervise students like Moises inside and outside of their classrooms, the suit stated.
In their court papers, attorneys for the HLPUSD denied district employees were negligent and disputed the damages the plaintiffs sought for their emotional distress.
Parulan-Colfer retired in January 2020.