SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District proposed a resolution to disburse $45 million awarded to a family that won a lawsuit. The payout will occur over a 10-year period claiming that a lump-sum would be an undue hardship.
The family filed the lawsuit against the SMMUSD in 2019 and won the case back on October 20, 2022. The case involved Charles and Nadine Wong’s two autistic sons, alleging that a school district employee at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in Malibu, Galit Gottlieb, used corporal punishment including physical restraint, physical abuse and intentional battery against the two special needs second graders. The lawsuit names multiple SMMUSD staff members who it said knew about the abuse but failed to act on or report it.
“The District does not have sufficient funds available to pay the amounts rendered in the Verdicts by lump sum,” the resolution stated. “A lump-sum payment of the Verdicts would serve as a severe undue financial hardship on the District and its ability to provide services now and in the future.”
The proposed resolution is in compliance with Government Code Section 970.6 which “provides that a judgment that imposes an undue hardship on a public agency may be paid over a period of ten years in equal yearly installment payments.”
According to the case, the twins experienced “significant challenges with respect to communication, behavior and adaptive skills as a result of their diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Both children had “extremely limited” communication capabilities.
The plaintiffs in the case were represented by David W. German of Vanaman German LLP and Omar Qureshi: Qureshi Law PC.
“District administrators failed the twins by allowing them to be abused for months despite clear warnings they were being harmed,” said German in a statement provided by his law office. “Even now, they refuse to acknowledge the extent of the harm their employee caused. Fortunately, the jury saw through their continued attempt to cover-up what occurred.”
The school district is seeking a new trial as they do not feel the evidence in the case supports the verdict or the damages rewarded.