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Faculty Members Charged with Felony Involuntary Manslaughter after Death of Autistic Student

On November 30, 2018, Max Benson – a thirteen-year-old autistic boy – died a few days after an incident at Guiding Hands School, which has since shut down. The incident occurred just two days prior, on the 28th. According to different accounts from other students at the school, Max was “disciplined” for kicking a wall. Faculty Members Charged with Felony Involuntary Manslaughter after Death of Autistic Student Kimberly Wohlwend, the teacher involved in the incident, placed Max Benson in a “prone restraint;” the boy was pinned down facing the ground. Max was restrained for an extended period of time. At one point, the boy stopped moving; however, the staff that restrained him told him to stop pretending to sleep (a common strategy used by students to bring such restraints to an end). Max was not moving for an entire 30 minutes before staff finally realized that he was unresponsive and sought medical attention. A staff member attempted CPR. Benson was transported to a local hospital where he died just two days later.

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The Department of Education launched an investigation against the school and found that the method of restraint used on Max violated state laws and did not match the student’s behavioral intervention plan. The incident resulted in the suspension of the school’s certification (meaning that it could not accept new students). The school closed permanently in December 2018, just a short time after the incident. Kimberly Wohlwend, the teacher involved in the incident, as well as the former Principal Staranne Meyers, Executive Director Cindy Keller, and the school are all facing charges of involuntary manslaughter (one count each). This information has become available almost one year after the tragic death of Max Benson.

The Impact of this Incident on the Community

After the incident, many parents of special-needs students that were attending Guiding Hands School made the decision to pull their students out of the school. The school that these parents had trusted for so many years had proven to be unreliable. The school, teachers, and all other staff members failed to keep Max Benson safe. Their negligent actions directly contributed to the death of the student.
“Revoking a school’s certification is an action that the CDE takes very seriously, and it is not done without careful consideration and justification,” State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said in January.
Unfortunately, incidents similar to the one mentioned above occur in schools at all times. Even though the majority of incidents only result in injuries, school-related incidents in which the school and the staff has clearly been negligent should always be taken seriously. If your child suffered any injuries or lost his or her life as a result of a school-related incident that was directly associated to school or staff negligence, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Depending on the specific details of the incident, you might have grounds to file a claim and even receive some sort of compensation. If you would like to learn more about the possibility of taking legal action against a school, its staff, or an entire school district, do not hesitate to contact the experts at Downtown L.A. Law Group. At Downtown L.A. Law Group, our experts have many years of experience handling all sorts of claims and helping victims and their families recover the compensation that they deserve. Our lawyers are dedicated to providing those in need with the legal representation necessary to take legal action against the parties or entities accountable. If you would like to explore the possibility of taking legal action for the harm that your child suffered, do not hesitate to seek the legal representation of the experts at our firm at your earliest convenience.

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Duty of Care to Students

School districts, schools, school personnel (like teachers, aids, and other staff members) all have a duty of care towards students. In general, there is a duty of care to ensure that students are out of harm’s way at all times. Without a doubt, sometimes students can pose a danger to themselves or to others, and immediate action is required. However, there is certain protocol to be followed. In schools that deal with special needs students that regularly have behavioral outbursts, behavioral intervention plans are established to ensure that any behavioral issues are correctly addressed. By using excessive force to gain control of or restrain a student (in violation of laws and protocol), for example, there is a breached duty of care that puts students at risk of harm. As soon as a student is harmed in any way due to a breached duty of care, the school district, the school, and all involved school personnel could be found liable. School staff members charged in death of California boy with autism In essence, whenever these parties negligently contribute to the harm that their students suffer, they could be found liable. This means that parents and injured victims (once they become of-age) can pursue claims against these parties to hold them accountable for their negligent actions. If you would like to learn more about the duty of care owed to students and the action that affected parties could take, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with our experts as soon as possible.

Filing a Claim and Recovering Compensation

If you decide to file a claim, reaching a successful claim outcome could result in recovering at least some sort of monetary compensation. Depending on the specific details of your claim, you could be eligible to receive compensation for at least some of the following:
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Punitive damage
The specific type and amount of compensation that you could be eligible to recover upon reaching a successful claim outcome will always depend on the specific details of your claim. Therefore, there is no guarantee on the specific type and amount of compensation that you could be eligible to recover. If you would like to learn more about the type and amount of compensation that you could receive if your claim reaches a successful outcome, do not hesitate to contact our law firm today. Our lawyers will fight for your right to recover the highest amount of compensation available for your claim.

Understand the Applicable Statute of Limitations

All claims are subject to strict statutes of limitations – which establish the specific length of time that claimants have to file. In general, injury and wrongful death claims are subject to a two-year deadline. However, this deadline does not apply to government entities, such as schools or school districts. If you are pursuing a claim against a school district, for example, you will have to file your claim within a strict 6-month deadline. If you fail to file on time, you will lose your right to sue. If you would like to learn more about the total length of time that you have to file your claim after your son or daughter was harmed by the negligent actions of a school and its personnel, do not hesitate to contact our law firm at your earliest convenience for more information.

Contact Downtown L.A. Law Group Today

At our firm, our experts are dedicated to representing all those who might have grounds to take legal actions against negligent parties or entities that contributed to harm suffered by innocent victims. Our experts are dedicated to remaining accessible to all; therefore, we offer free legal services. Our free legal services include free consultations and free second opinions and are available as part of our Zero-Fee guarantee. This guarantee ensures that our clients will never have to pay any upfront costs for our legal services. Our firm is also based on a contingency structure, so our clients will only have to pay legal fees if their claims are successful. If you are interested in discussing your claim with the experts at our firm, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Downtown L.A. Law Group at your earliest convenience. Our lawyers are ready to fight for your rights and the rights of your child! Contact us today.

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