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Breaking down the $140 million payout from LAUSD to Miramonte abuse plaintiffs

Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.
Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.
Krista Kennell/AFP/Getty Images

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It is said to be the largest ever settlement against a school district in a sex abuse case. LA Unified School District has agreed to pay $139,750,000 to 81 victims that were allegedly subjected to sexual molestation and lewd acts by convicted Miramonte elementary school teacher, Mark Berndt. A retired judge will decide how the settlement will be allocated to the victims on a case-by-case basis. Legal analysts tell KPCC the district did not want to risk a higher payout had the case gone to a jury trial. Friday's agreement is in addition to a settlement of $30 million to dozens of other accusers last year. Berndt has been accused of touching children's genitals, exposing his own, blindfolding children and feeding them his semen as well as photographic children, sometimes with tape over their eyes and mouths. He has pleaded no contest to 23 charges of lewd conduct upon a child and is serving a 25 year sentence in prison.

The source of the monies for the settlement is in dispute because LAUSD's insurers argue they do not cover sex abuse judgements.

What is the mechanism for deciding compensatory damages? Does a record-breaking sum such as this spur any arguments for tort reform?


John Manly, Attorney for plaintiffs in the Miramonte schools case; Partner with Manly, Stewart & Finaldi LLP

Lawrence Rosenthal, Professor of Law, Chapman University School of Law in Orange