Los Angeles school district settles teacher sex suit for $5M
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of a student who was molested by a teacher when she was 13.
The agreement on the eve of jury selection came Friday. It would be the largest payout the nation's second-largest school district has ever made to a single sexual-abuse victim, according to her lawyers.
In a statement Monday, the school district said it couldn't discuss the case because the agreement had not been "executed or approved by the court."
However, lawyers for the district agreed to the payment and said they hoped to make the payment within 30 days, according to a transcript of Friday's hearing.
"This young girl was abused in the classroom and victimized a second time in the courtroom," John Taylor, an attorney for the girl, said in a statement Monday. "Because of her courage and persistence, she will make it easier for other abuse victims to pursue their claims without fear of being blamed for the abuse."
According to her lawyers, the girl was 13 during the 2010/2011 school year when she was "groomed and manipulated" into having sex with her eighth-grade mathematics teacher at Thomas Alva Edison Middle School.
Elkis Hermida, who was then 30, molested the girl for seven months in the classroom and near campus. He was arrested in 2011 after a friend of the girl told a teacher about the relationship.
Hermida pleaded no contest to one count of committing lewd acts upon a victim aged 14 and was sentenced to three years in prison.
In a 2011 negligence lawsuit, the girl's lawyers argued that the district ignored Hermida's inappropriate conduct with girls, including having them sit on his lap in the classroom.
During trial, however, the district argued that the girl had consented to having sex and she was questioned on the stand about her previous sexual history.
A jury ruled in favor of the district but an appeals court ordered a new trial.
In 2015, the case prompted California lawmakers to pass a measure barring the use of consent as a defense in civil lawsuits involving minors and adults in positions of authority over them. The law also barred the use, in most cases, of the minor's sexual history to prove consent.
Friday's settlement came as pre-trial arguments were about to begin. Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday.