Case Style: Jeanette and Michael Mears v. Bethel School District, et al.
Court: Superior Court, Pierce County, Washington
Plaintiff's Attorney: Ben Barcus
Defendant's Attorney: Gerald J. "Jerry" Moberg, Ephrata, Washington
Description: The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants failed to have a proper Emergency Health Care Plan in place for Mercedes Mears, with her well known severe allerygy and asthma condition. They also claimed that the school personnel were not properly trained to respond to a readily anticipated life threatening event, and failed to immediately respond with administration of EpiPen and CPR as mandated by school district directives and policy.
Expert medical testimony at trial indicated that had either occurred, 10 year old Mercedes Mears would most likely have survived. In addition, the event took place between 10-15 minutes, NOT six minutes. Expert testimony also confirmed that children do not die of asthma within that period of time (10-15 minutes). The rapid onset of the symptoms was more consistent with an allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis.
There was actually about a 7 - 1/2 minute delay before 911 was called the first time, and 12 minutes before a second call, as documented by computer logged dispatch sheets. In addition, it was discovered that the school nurse, who called in sick the day of the death, was chronically deficient in the preparation and completion of Emergency Health Care Plans for students with known life threatening health conditions. Those plans, according to school district policy, were supposed to be in place before the child was allowed to attend school. The nurse was also chronically disorganized and failed to properly train her subordinates providing health care to students, all of which was well known by the school district before the passing of Mercedes Mears. The nurse was eventually brought before the Human Resources Department of the District, but not for three years after the death. She resigned her position with a settlement agreement that provided she would continue to cooperate with the school district in this litigation, and that she would never apply for another position with the Bethel School District.
Outcome: The jury unanimously found the school district negligent, but did not find proxiimate cause, on a split verdict. The plaintiff believes that the proximate cause determination was the result of defense trial and pre trial misconduct, and will seek a new trial accordingly.