BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – A California school district will pay a former student $10.5 million to settle a brain injury lawsuit stemming from injuries he sustained while wearing a chicken suit at a school prep rally.
Former Bakersfield High School class president Mitch Carter sued the Kern High School District over a 2010 prep rally at which he dressed as an opposing team’s mascot. At the rally, school football players dog piled on Carter and kicked and punched the teen, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury that lead to slurred speech, depression, memory problems, disorientation and other issues, CBS News reports.
Carter’s attorney, Ralph Wegis, told the news site about 30 students piled on Carter at the rally, which damaged his pituitary gland and forced him to spend six months in a brain injury center.
“He’s kicked, he’s punched and he’s got his head on the gym floor and there are 200- and 300-pound people piling on in a series of poundings,” Wegis said. “It was just and out of control (scene), hyped-up kids.”
Another Carter attorney, Nicholas Rowley, held a press conference outside of Kern County Superior Court after the two sides reached a settlement, which he said the now 24-year-old will use for medical expenses, The Californian reports.
“A jury had already found the district liable for Carter’s injuries, which his lawyers said included brain damage. It was in the process of determining monetary damages and was expected to award more than $45 million, Rowley said based on interviews his side conducted with jurors in court Wednesday,” according to the news site.
“They would have given him more, but the school district would have appealed,” Rowley said, adding that Carter could use the cash now.
“No matter what, I’d trade everything just to have a fully functioning brain,” Carter said at the press conference. “But I think that is a good step in the right direction.”
District attorney Michael Kellar argued that the 2010 prep rally incident was “embarrassing and inexcusable,” but was a “total surprise and sudden surprise” to school officials. He contends the district’s insurance company decided to settle the case to avoid a huge payout.
“We understand the reasons why Self-Insured Schools of California and the excess insurance carrier chose to settle this case,” a district statement read. “The District is going to take this opportunity to evaluate its standards, policies and practices to ensure every student is educated in a safe and secure environment – because every parent and student should expect nothing less.
“We sincerely wish Mr. Carter and his family all the best as they move forward.”
According to The Californian:
The settlement ended a seven-day civil trial that shed light on shoddy safety practices at Kern High School District, revealed questionable policies and disorganization between the KHSD Police Department and school administrators, was fraught with accusations of conspiracy and cover-up and concluded with a lawyer donning a chicken suit in court.
At one point, when Kellar made an objection asking what the “chicken dance” was early in the trial, Rowley came close to demonstrating it in court.
Rowley accused school officials of attempting to “cover up” their role in the prep rally gone wrong, which district attorneys said is “ridiculous,” despite evidence presented at trial that allegedly showed school officials play favorites with student athletes, according to the news site.
“He’s not ‘Mitch the snitch’ anymore, or the kid in the chicken suit,” Rowley said. “He’s somebody who stood up for himself in our justice system and made the world a safer place.”