A California county school district and its insurer reached a $10.5-million settlement with a former student who was mobbed and assaulted for wearing a chicken suit at a rowdy football rally.
The Kern County School District reached the settlement Wednesday shortly after the liability phase of a two-part trial came to a close, with jurors finding the school district 100 percent liable for the injuries plaintiff Mitch Carter sustained in the attack.
Mr. Carter, a former Bakersfield High School Student, had to don a chicken suit at the 2010 rally to mock the Golden Eagle mascot of the opposing team. The stunt ended violently when about 30 students dog-piled on top of him, kicking and punching him.
The attack left Mr. Carter, the former student body president of his school, with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that required him to spend six months at a brain injury treatment center. Once an honor student, Mr. Carter now struggles with near-failing grades in college. The TBI has also caused him to suffer from memory loss, migraine headaches, depression, anxiety, and other emotional difficulties as well hormonal problems as the result of a damaged pituitary gland, which will require growth hormone therapy for the rest of his life, his lawsuit alleged.
According to the lawsuit, school officials encouraged Mr. Carter to dress in the chicken suit and rile the crowd against the opposing team, but they failed to act when the situation got out of hand and Mr. Carter was repeatedly pummeled.
“It was the view that the school’s conduct was despicable,” Mr. Carter’s lawyer told the court. “They (officials) completely failed in their job to deliver safety. Worse than that, they attempted to cover it up.”
According to Courtroom View Network, the Kern County School District made multiple offers to settle the negligence lawsuit during litigation, starting with an offer of $50,000, then increasing its offer to $1 million and $1.5 million. The school district’s insurer opted to settle the case for the school district’s full policy limit after the jury found the school district to be 100 percent liable for Mr. Carter’s TBI.
“The Kern High School District has never disputed that this incident should never have happened. The jury assigned the district with 100 percent liability and we humbly accept that responsibility,” a district statement said.