The LAUSD has created a website to detail their settlement offer for the parents of students who say they were abused by teachers at Miramonte Elementary. (AP file photo/Damian Dovarganes)
LAUSD launches website to explain Miramonte sex-abuse settlement offers
By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA DAILY NEWS | http://bit.ly/121MSIe
L.A. Unified presses families to settle Miramonte abuse claims
By Howard Blume | - latimes.com http://lat.ms/11OVnre.
6/25/2013 10:24:58 AM PDT :: Having already agreed to pay $30 million to settle about 60 claims related to the Miramonte Elementary sex-abuse scandal, Los Angeles Unified School District launched a website Tuesday detailing its efforts to resolve some three dozen other cases.
The website, miramontesettlements.com, is aimed at providing "factual information" about the $17 million the district offered earlier this month to settle 35 additional claims filed by students who say they were molested by former teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer at the school in the Florence-Firestone area.
The offer, which expires on July 5 after 30 days, would pay each youngster about $425,000. That compares to the deal announced in March that awards 61 other children about $470,000 each. Claims by about two dozen other students have not been part of the settlement talks.
L.A. Unified said the website, which is in English and Spanish, shows how the proposed settlements could be invested to generate income and provide for the plaintiffs' future needs. "We wanted to be sure there was a central clearinghouse for information about what the offers mean and how they would work," said spokesman Sean Rossall. "We wanted to provide the best factual information possible as the plaintiffs consider the offers. It's important not only for settling the Miramonte allegations but for protecting taxpayer resources."
It's the latest salvo in what has become a public campaign by both the district and plaintiffs' attorneys to resolve claims stemming from the sex-abuse scandal that erupted in February 2012, when the arrests of the two teachers were announced. The district called a news conference on June 5 to announce the $17 million proposal, which General Counsel David Holmquist called a "fair offer that will provide for the health and welfare of the students for the remainder of their lifetimes."
Attorneys Michael Carrillo, left, Luis Carrillo, middle, and John Henrichs, right, who represents 14 mothers of 22 children who were students at Miramonte Elementary School, announces the filing of a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District during a news conference at his offices in Pasadena on July 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Attorneys Luis Carrillo and Brian Claypool have held frequent news conferences outside LAUSD headquarters to levy allegations of negligence against LAUSD officials. They've scheduled another for Wednesday to release a letter to Superintendent John Deasy and school board President Monica Garcia demanding "sweeping policy changes "¦ to protect the safety of all children." The lawyers have previously said the $17 million offer would not cover the costs of mental-health therapy for their clients or the emotional pain and suffering caused by the alleged abuse.
Berndt, 62, has pleaded not guilty to charges of committing lewd acts against 23 children. He's accused of blindfolding students and leading them in a bizarre "tasting game" in which he fed them spoonfuls of his semen and semen-tainted cookies. He remains jailed in lieu of $23 million bail, pending a preliminary hearing.
Springer, 51, has been ordered to stand trial on charges of committing lewd acts against three Miramonte students. He has pleaded not guilty.
Former elementary teacher Mark Berndt, right, faces lewd conduct charges. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / February 21, 2012)
June 25, 2013, 10:18 p.m. :: Alleged victims of abuse at Miramonte Elementary have until July 5 to accept recent settlement offers from the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials said Tuesday.
The school district pressed its point with a new website that emphasized that fact with a countdown clock clicking toward the deadline second by second.
"The reason we’re setting up the website is to provide information to the community -- both to the community at Miramonte and to the taxpaying community at large," said Sean Rossall, an L.A. Unified spokesman.
"There is a finite time on these offers," he said. "The idea is not to ratchet up the pressure, but to make sure the community understands there are deadlines on this.”
Attorneys representing alleged victims have accused the district of trying to strong-arm their clients into settling for less than they deserve. They have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday morning to respond.
The damage claims stem from allegations that former teacher Mark Berndt spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he called a "tasting game," among other alleged incidents of abusive conduct.
Berndt, 62, has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.
The new web page includes a sample lifetime payment structure that, with interest, is expected to provide victims at least $770,000 each.
There are 65 student claims and 63 parent claims remaining, Rossall said. The latest settlement offer applies to 35 students who were part of an earlier dispute-resolution process. L.A. Unified reached an earlier round of settlements in March with 61 alleged victims.
The district's offer is also part of a litigation strategy. If a court verdict falls below the offer, for example, the alleged victims would be responsible for some legal costs, officials said.
Attorneys representing alleged victims said they will renew their call for policy changes that would prevent future sexual misconduct and other abuse. They accuse the district of inaction that led to further student harm since Berndt's arrest in January 2012.
District officials vehemently deny that accusation, although old and new abuse cases have come to light in L.A. Unified and elsewhere.
Attorney Luis Carrillo said his firm represents 10 additional victims from seven different schools.
IMPORTANT - Please Read
On June 5, 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District made 35 settlement offers to the remaining plaintiffs who participated in the Miramonte Elementary School early resolution process. These offers were made according to Civil Code of Procedure 998, which creates certain legal ramifications for plaintiffs if not accepted within 30 days.
Since early in the process, the school district worked with plaintiffs’ lawyers to design an early resolution process that would allow the parties to use a respectful and private process to attempt to resolve the cases without litigation. Throughout that process, the school district tried to resolve the cases in a way that would promote healing and improve trust, while providing for the future health and educational needs of the children impacted.
Half of the Cases by Miramonte Students Have Settled
Earlier this year, nearly half of the cases by Miramonte students were settled. The court has already begun approving those settlements, and the families will start receiving their checks in the next two weeks.
As part of the more than 60 settlements, the students’ money will be invested into secure structures that can more than double the original amount, ensuring that each student will obtain ongoing financial resources for their lifetime.
The Facts about the 998 Offers and Miramonte Settlements:
If not accepted, the 998 offers establish a baseline amount that plaintiffs must beat in a court verdict. If the court verdict is less than the 998 offer amount, the individual plaintiffs will be personally responsible for paying certain legal costs incurred by the school district.
Plaintiffs only have 30 days to accept the 998 offers. Since they were served on June 5, 2013, all offers must be accepted by July 5, 2013. If the offers are not accepted within 30 days, they are considered rejected.
Each of the 998 offers included an example investment structure showing how the secure investments would make the settlement funds grow substantially so it could provide for the children over their lifetime. In some cases, the initial settlement amounts can be more than doubled through the use of structures. To see a sample structure, click here.
Through the proposed structured settlement, children will receive funds for healthcare and education. The payments are broken up so that there are several lump sum payments at various ages and then ongoing monthly payments from age 30 to age 70, ensuring that there are more than adequate funds for all future health and educational needs.
[ COUNTDOWN CLOCK IN DAYS, HOURS, MINUTES AND SECONDS TO JULY 5 DEADLINE} Remaining to accept the 998 offers
|smf: Remember Tick-Tock the Croc in Peter Pan? Long ago, Peter Pan cut off Captain Hook's left hand and fed it to the Crocodile. The Crocodile thought it was so delicious that he wanted to eat the rest of Captain Hook. This led Tick Tock to follow the wicked pirate wherever he went. Luckily for Hook, however, the crocodile also swallowed an alarm clock, allowing Hook to hear him coming. This is like that!|
Notice Regarding Seeking Legal Advice
The information provided on this webpage is intended to help answer questions and provide factual information about how these offers work, what they mean and their potential impact. This information is not legal advice. You should consult your attorney for appropriate legal advice and to accept a settlement offer.