PLG Advances Wrongful Death Claim for Family of Teen Stabbed to Death By Student at Aptos High School
Last week, the wrongful death attorneys at the Piccuta Law Group served a notice of claim on the Pajarao Valley Unified School District. The notice of claim was also served on the District’s Superintendent and the President of the Board of Trustees. The notice of claim is a pre-cursor to filing a lawsuit and must be served before a lawsuit may be filed.
The notice of claim was filed on behalf of an Aptos high school teen who was stabbed to death on August 31, 2021 while on campus. The notice of claim was filed by the teen’s parents and on behalf of his estate. The Piccuta Law Group was hired by the teen’s family to handle the wrongful death claim and advance claims against the school district and individuals in charge.
The Allegations in the Notice of Claim Filed By PLG For the Wrongful Death of the Aptos High Student
The Notice of Claim filed by our wrongful death lawyers contained allegations that the high school and school District failed to maintain a safe campus. Specifically, the claim set forth the following allegations:
In July 2020, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (“PVUSD”) voted to end its School Resource Officer (“SRO”) Program, which had placed law enforcement officers on PVUSD campuses, including at Aptos High School. In-person instruction for the 2021–2022 school year began at Aptos High on, or about, August 12, 2021. In the following few weeks, Aptos High saw an increase in violence and fights with no SRO on campus. One such fight that occurred in mid-August involved a 14-year-old student (referred to herein as “K.O.”) who pulled a knife on another student. K.O. was a known gang-affiliate and had been on probation at the time of the fight for his involvement in the commission of a violent crime. However, the incident on campus was not reported to law enforcement or child protective services. Instead, the 14-year-old was suspended for two days and then returned to campus.
On August 31, 2021, at approximately 2:20 p.m., K.O. confronted a 17-year-old Aptos High student (referred to herein as “G.S.”) on the Aptos High School campus behind the old gymnasium. Accompanying K.O. was another 17-year-old Aptos High student (referred to herein as “I.R.”) who also had a history of violence and was a known gang-affiliate. The two students violently attacked G.S., and K.O. stabbed G.S. with a knife. G.S. was found at approximately 2:28 p.m. near the swimming pool. He was air-lifted to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas where he died later that night. I.R. was charged with two assault-related crimes and gang enhancements. K.O. was charged with murder and gang enhancements.
PVUSD and District personnel breached their duty to supervise in that they provided ineffective and/or a total lack of supervision of students while on Aptos High campus during school hours.
At the time of the attack on G.S., PVUSD personnel, including at Aptos High, were aware of the recent increase in violence. PVUSD and District personnel had a duty to supervise students, including G.S., on campus at Aptos High to regulate their conduct and for their protection. PVUSD and District personnel breached their duty to supervise in that they provided ineffective and/or a total lack of supervision of students while on Aptos High campus during school hours. Further, PVUSD and District personnel failed to provide Aptos High staff with proper training and guidance on the supervision of students. These failures were substantial factors in causing the death of G.S.
PVUSD and District personnel also owed a duty to Aptos High students, including G.S., to take reasonable measures to protect them from foreseeable harm at the hands of third parties acting intentionally or negligently. The harm to G.S. from I.R. and K.O. was a foreseeable consequence, given the history of violence in the District, including at Aptos High. PVUSD and District personnel violated their duty to G.S. in that they:
1) failed to approach and investigate I.R. and K.O. as they lingered suspiciously on campus waiting to attack G.S.;
2) failed to hold K.O. to strict account for the mid-August attack on another student;
3) failed to report K.O. to law enforcement for K.O.’s mid-August attack on another student;
4) failed to effectively supervise Aptos High’s campus, including the area on campus when and where G.S. was fatally stabbed;
5) failed to perform regular inspections of Aptos High’s campus, including the area on campus when and where G.S. was fatally stabbed;
6) failed to properly identify areas on campus that were considered supervision zones;
7) failed to train staff regarding student supervision;
8) failed to require staff to provide effective supervision;
9) failed to train staff on mandatory reporting of students to law enforcement; and
10) failed to require staff to report students to law enforcement as mandated by law.
PVUSD and District personnel are also liable for maintaining a dangerous condition on campus at Aptos High. Given the history of, and increase in, violence in the District, including at Aptos High, PVUSD and District personnel were on notice of the dangerous condition created by student-on-student violence. The harm to G.S. was also foreseeable given the lack of supervision on campus at the particular place and time that G.S. was attacked by K.O. and I.R.; the failure to fully inform students of prior incidents of violence; and the failure to take any other protective measures. These failures were substantial factors in causing the death of G.S.
A Notice of Claim Must Be Filed Before a Wrongful Death Lawsuit May be Advanced
Under California law, a notice of claim must be filed against a government entity before a lawsuit for personal injuries may be advanced. The notice of claim must be filed within six months of the date giving rise to the claim. This is set forth in California Government Code § 911.2(a). The section states as follows:
(a) A claim relating to a cause of action for death or for injury to person or to personal property or growing crops shall be presented as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 915) not later than six months after the accrual of the cause of action. A claim relating to any other cause of action shall be presented as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 915) not later than one year after the accrual of the cause of action.
What Happens After the Notice of Government Claim is Filed?
After the notice of claim is filed, the government agency has forty-five days to respond to the claim. The government agency can either reject the claim or act upon it. If the government agency believes the claim is meritorious, it may pay the amount justly due. If the government agency believes the claim is proper, but not the amount, it may pay the amount it believes is fair and reject the balance claimed. Finally, the government agency may try to resolve and settle the claim even when it disputes liability.
These options are set forth in California Government Code § 912.6. This Code section states:
(1) If the board finds the claim is not a proper charge against the public entity, it shall reject the claim.
(2) If the board finds the claim is a proper charge against the public entity and is for an amount justly due, it shall allow the claim.
(3) If the board finds the claim is a proper charge against the public entity but is for an amount greater than is justly due, it shall either reject the claim or allow it in the amount justly due and reject it as to the balance.
(4) If legal liability of the public entity or the amount justly due is disputed, the board may reject the claim or may compromise the claim.
What Usually Happens When a Notice of Claim is Filed?
In the experience of our attorneys, the notice of claim is almost always rejected. The government entities simply do not want to pay unless they are forced to. The notice of claim process seems to be little more than an extra obstacle that a litigant must pass before being allowed to file a lawsuit.
if an individual fails to serve a notice of claim on a governmental entity within six months of the injury producing event, they will lose all rights to file a lawsuit and recover on their claim.
For those who fail to comply with the notice of claim requirement, their claims will almost certainly be forever barred. There are rare exceptions to this general rule. However, for the most part, if an individual fails to serve a notice of claim on a governmental entity within six months of the injury producing event, they will lose all rights to file a lawsuit and recover on their claim. As such, the six month claim deadline effectively eliminates liability on thousands of claims each year for those who fail to comply with it.
What Happens Once the Notice of Government Claim is Rejected?
Once the notice of claim is rejected, a lawsuit may be filed. However, the lawsuit must be filed within six months from the date of the rejection. This is set forth in California Government Code § 945.6(a)(1). The failure to do so means that the claim will be forever barred.
This creates a second rigid deadline by which thousands of meritorious claims may be eliminated. These additional rules, that only apply to government entities, protect these entities from claims and lawsuits if these strict procedures are not followed. Any time your claim is against a government entity, you should consult with an experienced attorney to make sure your claims are not forever barred. The attorneys at the Piccuta Law Group regularly sue government entities and can walk you through this process.
What Happens if the Government Claim is Not Acted Upon?
If no response is received to the notice of government claim, it is deemed rejected after 45 days. In other words, if the government agency fails or refuses to act on the claim in the 45-day period, it is considered a rejection. As such, a lawsuit can then be filed thereafter at any time.
Contact an Experienced Attorney if You Have a Government Claim
If you or a loved one has a claim against a government entity, it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney. As discussed above, there are several rigid deadlines that must be complied with. The personal injury attorneys at the Piccuta Law Group regularly bring claims against government entities. We will make sure your rights are preserved if you have a claim. Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.
About the author: The content on this page was written by California personal injury attorney and wrongful death lawyer Charles “Tony” Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Previously ranked Top 35 US News & World Report). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout California and Arizona. He is a winning trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is AV Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project, Arizona Association of Justice, and many local county and City bar associations.
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