The Minerva Local Schools Board of Education recently agreed to settle a lawsuit with a student and his family for $125,000.
Earlier this week, Minerva schools agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged a “Minerva Middle School wrestler was injured, traumatized, and abused in a practice drill.” The agreement was approved last week by a Stark County Probate Court judge and the settlement funds be paid by the school for the “pain and suffering of the student and his family, as well as for attorney fees.” According to the agreement, the parents will get $41,647, the student will get $41,647 when he turns 18, and the rest will go towards attorney fees.
When commenting on the agreement, Julie Jakmides Mack, the attorney who represented the family, said:
“I thought it was a very good settlement…There was a lot of back and forth; it was not easily obtained…There’s just a lot of variables…The family is happy with the amount and happy they will be able to move on with their lives.”
She noted the litigation process took a bit longer because of the COVID-19 pandemic and “immunity issues that could have been raised by the school district.”
Minerva Local Schools Superintendent Gary Chaddock issued the following statement regarding the settlement:
“Our legal work on this matter has been guided by the district’s insurer, which will pay the settlement proceeds…It was the insurer’s recommendation to settle the case, and our district agrees with that decision…We are pleased to have a resolution and are moving forward.”
What happened, though? What were the events that prompted the filing of the lawsuit? For starters, the complaint was filed back in December 2019 in Stark County Common Pleas Court by Mark and Krystin Dailey, the parents of the student wrestler. The defendants in the suit included the Minerva Local Schools Board of Education and Nathan Smith and Jason Lutz, two former wrestling coaches for the district. At the time of the alleged incident, Smith was working as the head coach of the middle school wrestling team and Lutz was his assistant coach.
The suit accused Lutz and Smith of subjecting the student to “repeated assault, at the insistence and direction of Smith to punish the boy for having used the restroom during practice for what they deemed to be too long.” The incident occurred during a practice in December 2018 when the defendants “forced the boy to the center of a wrestling mat, told him he was not to defend himself, and compelled 16 wrestlers, each and every one of them larger than the boy, to take him down,” according to eye-witness testimony provided by other wrestlers.
After practice, the child was complaining of abdominal pain and was taken to the emergency room, where he was treated for multiple injuries. According to the suit, the “emergency room physician who treated the boy, after being informed how the injuries had occurred, felt they were so severe that he informed the child’s father ‘if he did not report the child abuse, resulting from the wrestling practice, to law enforcement, the physician would do so himself.’”
The civil suit further noted that both Lutz and Smith were “aware of the child’s complicated and extensive medical history necessitating his frequent and sometimes extended trips to the bathroom.”
Despite agreeing to the settlement, Minerva Local Schools has not admitted to wrongdoing.