On August 11, 2010, the plaintiffs--deaf students who were sexually assaulted by a group of fellow students at a state-run school for the blind and deaf--brought this suit against the State of Hawaii. Represented by private counsel, and suing both individually and on behalf of a class of students sexually assaulted at the school between 2001 and 2013, they filed the case in Hawaii state court requesting damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys' fees.
The lawsuit alleged a hostile environment, discrimination, and denial of benefits under Hawaii state law, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq.; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Individuals with Disabilities Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400, et seq.; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq; intentional infliction of emotional distress and physical injury; and for violation of their rights under the Privileges or Immunities and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that they were raped and bullied by a group of fellow students while attending the school, and that the state's lack of adequate supervision and failure to properly handle or report these assaults resulted in the plaintiffs' extreme mental and physical distress.
On September 9, 2011, the defendants removed the case from Hawaii state court to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (Judge Kevin S.C. Chang). On September 13, the state counterclaimed that one of the plaintiffs perpetrated one or more of the assaults alleged in the Complaint; the state argued that this plaintiff's parent could be held liable for the conduct under a negligence theory. The state also sought leave to file a third-party complaint claiming that individual student attackers should be held liable for all of plaintiffs' claims against them; the Court allowed the third-party complaint to be filed.
One of the individual defendants named in the action filed a third party complaint (later amended) and cross-claim a couple of weeks later, on September 21, 2011. The individual defendant also filed a motion for a protective order, which was denied on October 14, 2011. See Doe v. Hawaii, 2011 WL 4954606 (D. Haw. Oct. 14, 2011).
Four individuals and the Hawaii Office of the Public Guardian intervened in the action on behalf of the plaintiffs on April 11, 2012. On September 5, 2012, three additional individuals were joined in the action as plaintiffs-in-intervention.
The case then settled. On February 19, 2013, the Court granted the plaintiffs' consolidated joint motion to certify a class and approve the notice of proposed settlement. On April 22, the Court approved the settlement and the plaintiffs-in-intervention's motion for approval of attorney fees and costs, awarding the plaintiffs $527,925.40. On May 6, 2013, the Court entered a stipulation to amend the order approving settlement and granting motions for attorneys' fees and costs, awarding the class a total of $5,750,000.
In addition to the damages, the settlement agreement contained substantial injunctive relief. It required that the state undertake specific reforms, including reporting, training, and hiring requirements and improved monitoring of school grounds and buses. Malia Zimmerman, $5.75 Million Settlement Awarded to Deaf and Blind Students Sexually Assaulted by Gang at Hawaii Public School, Hawaii Reporter (Feb. 24, 2013), http://www.hawaiireporter.com/5-75-million-settlement-awarded-to-deaf-and-blind-students-sexually-assaulted-by-gang-at-hawaii-public-school/123.
The amended agreement also provided for attorneys' fees and costs for the class counsel in an amount not to exceed $1 million. Stella Cernak - 04/06/2014
Daniel Fryer - 02/01/2016