- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) - An eastern Indiana school district has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of a severely disabled student who died three days after choking at lunch.

Under a settlement approved by a judge last week, the Richmond Community Schools agreed to pay the parents of 17-year-old Megan Lyons, Michael and Denita Lyons of Richmond, who agreed to drop the lawsuit in exchange for the payment, the Palladium-Item reported (https://pinews.co/1LSnujg ). There was no admission of guilt.

Court records said Megan, who had Down syndrome and other disabilities, sometimes ate quickly and tried swallow food without properly chewing, so a dining plan called for a Richmond High School staffer to monitor her during meals and cut up her food before she ate it.

However, on the day Megan choked, a staffer who had never supervised her before was assigned to do so and did not cut up the food.

Megan died on Jan. 10, 2009.

The district’s attorney, Ron Cross, said school officials were glad the case lasting five years was over.

“In a tragedy like this, there are no winners. … Certainly we all share the grief that her parents feel,” Cross said in a telephone interview.

The settlement was approved Special Judge Peter Haviza of Randolph County.

Haviza had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants in March 2012, and the Lyonses appealed. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in part and reversed it in part, and the case ended up before the Indiana Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the defendants argued the Lyonses had filed the tort claim notice after the 180-day deadline for such a filing. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, however, contended there was a valid reason for the delay because the parents did not learn from an eyewitness until October 2009 that “things were not done properly” during the choking incident, court records said. The couple filed their tort claim on Jan. 11, 2010.

The Indiana Supreme Court found facts about the incident had been concealed by the school district, leading to the delay in the tort claim, and it sent the case back to Haviza for a jury trial.

In January, the parties agreed to go into mediation.


Information from: Palladium-Item, https://www.pal-item.com

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