Michael Guzman, a former El Sereno high school basketball coach and history teacher, was arrested this month on 4 charges of lewd acts on a minor. The incidents occurred more than 20years ago, according to the victims and court documents filed on their behalf. At the time of his arrest, Guzman was working as an assistant principal at Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel.
Guzman has had a long and prolific career that span numerous school districts, and it’s likely that there are many more victims than the ones who have recently come forward. Were you sexually abused by Michael Guzman while you were attending Woodrow Wilson High School, Gabrielino High, or any other school in Los Angeles County? You may have grounds to file a lawsuit against Michael Guzman and the school district if they failed to act appropriately upon learning of sexual abuse allegations against one of their employees.
To schedule a free consultation with a school sexual abuse lawsuit attorney, contact DTLA Law Group.
Sexual Abuse Allegations against Michael Guzman
Much of the details in this case were provided by Maria Barajas and Clarissa Vizcaino, two former students of Guzman, who went to the Los Angeles PD to talk about what happened to them over 20 years ago. Both women are former students of Woodrow Wilson High School, where Guzman coached basketball and taught history classes. Though the women were not friends at school, they were targeted by Guzman when they joined the school basketball team.
The women allege that over a long period of grooming, Guzman won over their trust with affection and compliments. According to Barajas, it took over a year before their relationship turned sexual, and by then, it’s understandable that she was under his spell and willing to do what he wanted.
As for Vizcaino, she said, “At that time, I had never had anyone be that affectionate with me. I had never had an actual real boyfriend or kissed anyone.” This lack of experience was clearly exploited by Guzman, which Vizcaino wrote about in her diary when she was 15 years old. This will serve as valuable evidence in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District. However, it’s likely that more damning evidence will be uncovered in the upcoming weeks and months.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse due to negligence by the LAUSD, please contact us to learn about your rights and legal options.
Can I Sue a School District for Sexual Abuse by My Teacher?
Yes, it’s possible to sue the school district for acts of sexual misconduct by a teacher or any other staff member. In the case against Michael Guzman, the women claim that officials and staff at Woodrow Wilson High School either knew about, or should have known about the abuse that was going on.
We find that this is true in just about every case we represent at our law firm. By the time a teacher is arrested for sexual assault of a student, there is a long history of accusations against the individual. Instead of contacting the police, school administrators find ways to make the accusations go away. Sometimes, they do this by misleading the victim and their family members of their legal rights. Or, they quietly move the teacher to another school or allow them to resign with glowing recommendations. This way, the problem is off their hands, and they can move forward as if nothing happened.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for the victims to move on with their lives after a trusted adult has violated them in a sexual manner. That’s why school systems have the highest duty of care to the students they serve, which includes taking immediate action upon a complaint, or even suspicion, of a sexual relationship between staff members and students. For example, other adults at the school should have been suspicious of Guzman for giving the girls rides alone in his car. There were many other instances where the former basketball coach was alone with each girl for long periods of time, which is clearly a red flag.
Failure by the school district to take appropriate measures for the protection of a child is grounds for a lawsuit, even if the school is not directly involved in the abuse. That’s why school systems are often named as a defendant in lawsuits for sexual abuse by current and former students.
How Much is the Average Settlement for a School Sexual Assault Lawsuit?
The amount of compensation you can receive from a school sexual assault lawsuit is $1,500,000 to $3,500,000 on average. Some cases will settle for around $500,000 or less, while others will exceed $5,000,000. Each case value is based on many factors that are specific to the victim, so at the end of the day, there is no such thing as an average settlement for child sexual abuse lawsuits. The most important thing is to speak with an experienced sexual assault lawyer, who can help you figure out what your lawsuit is worth.
How Long Does it Take for a Student Sexual Abuse Case to Settle?
On average, it takes anywhere from 1 to 3 years to settle a sexual abuse lawsuit when the offender is a public school employee. Lawsuits for sexual abuse are complicated enough on their own, but those against school districts for the abuse of a student add an extra layer of complexity. First, there are different guidelines for suing a public school district versus private entities, like a homeowner or shopping center. Then, there is the fact that claims against public institutions involve additional steps, which will certainly prolong the legal process.
If your case goes to trial, the timeline to recover your payment will likely exceed 3 years. Frankly, this is not something most people have to worry about, since we are able to reach a settlement over 95% of the time. However, preparing for and trying your case in court will add 1 or more years to the process of resolving a school sexual abuse lawsuit.
What is the Statute of Limitations to Sue the School District?
Lawsuits for the sexual abuse of minors (individuals under 18 years of age) have a 22 year statute of limitations. This time period begins from the day you are legally an adult, so officially, you have up until your 40th birthday to sue for sexual misconduct by a school staff member.
However, there is technically no age limit for a student sex abuse lawsuit. According to the discovery rule, you have 5 years to file a lawsuit, starting from the time you discover an injury that’s related to sexual abuse while you were under the age of consent. This can happen in situations where the victim represses memories of sexual abuse for many years.
This is precisely what happened to Maria Barajas, one of Michael’s Guzman’s victims. She told the Los Angeles Times, “I just kind of put it in this box and put it away for a long time.” But there’s no way to completely erase these incidents from your mind, and more often than not, abuse survivors like Barajas suffer from mental health disorders, like PTSD, sexual dysfunctions, and drug abuse. By getting professional help, they come to realize how their current problems were caused by what happened to them while they were in school
This is the point where the victim has 5 years to file a sexual abuse claim against a negligent school district. Ultimately, the deadline for a child sexual assault lawsuit is a complicated subject, which you should discuss with a lawyer that’s experienced in cases involving sexual abuse by a school teacher.
Lawyers that can Help You Sue for Sexual Abuse of a Minor
dWhat happened to Maria Barajas and Clarissa Vizcaino is tragic and unacceptable, yet we know that these incidents are extremely common within school districts throughout California. For a victim of sexual exploitation during childhood, the impact of sexual abuse will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
As attorneys specializing in child sexual abuse cases, our job is to represent your interests and fight for the compensation you deserve. It’s also our duty to protect your finances in the meantime, which is why all legal fees are charged to the defendant. That means we wait until the end of your case to receive payment, which only happens if there is a favorable to come to your lawsuit. If we fail to secure your settlement award, you pay nothing under the terms of the Zero Fee Guarantee.
We are ready to meet with you for a free case evaluation or free second opinion consultation, which you can schedule by contacting our office.