$1.3 million jury award in Snohomish High School stabbing

SEATTLE — A jury has decided the Snohomish School District must pay $1.3 million for its negligence in failing to protect two Snohomish High School girls from being stabbed in 2011 by a mentally troubled classmate.

The verdict was announced Tuesday after a King County Superior Court trial.

The lawsuit was brought by the families of April Lutz and a friend, Bekah Staudacher, who were both 15 and freshmen when the attack occurred in a high school restroom on Oct. 24, 2011.

Tuesday’s verdict focused on the injuries suffered by Lutz and her family.

“April and her friend were attacked in what parents and students are led to believe is a safe place — their high school — and the verdict proves the school district patently failed to take the most basic common sense precautions to protect the girls from a foreseeable danger,” Sim Osborn, an attorney representing Lutz, said in a prepared statement. “All of the warning signs were there, but no one opened their eyes, communicated with one another or took steps to safeguard students from a deeply disturbed classmate.”

April Lutz had life-threatening injuries, with 13 stab wounds that caused damage to her heart and a lung. She was so close to death her heart stopped beating three times on the way to the hospital.

Bekah Staudacher was slashed in the arm and stabbed in the back trying to protect her friend. Her part of the lawsuit was previously settled out of court, school officials said Tuesday.

The stabbing victims’ families filed their lawsuit against the Snohomish School District in June 2012 after learning of records that showed school counselors were aware that the assailant had been having fantasies of violent assaults on others, but was allowed to return to school.

The girl behind the attack came to school that day with knives in her backpack. She waited in a bathroom stall and apparently picked her victims at random.

Neither girl knew their attacker, an upperclassman. In 2012 she pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and second-degree assault. Under a plea agreement, she’s now serving 13 years behind bars. The plan is to keep her in a juvenile lock-up where she’ll receive mental health treatment for about five years. After her 21st birthday, she’s expected to be moved to adult prison to serve out the remainder of her sentence.

The girl told adults in spring 2011 that she was thinking about killing others or herself. She had been seeing a therapist and receiving medication for depression.

She was expelled from school in April 2011 after she threatened to stab another student, court papers said. School officials said the girl needed to get professional counseling before returning.

She attended out-patient services at Fairfax Hospital for about eight days before the hospital concluded she was safe to resume classes, according to court papers.

The girl continued to see a therapist for the next eight months, with her last visit about three weeks before the assaults, according to court papers.

By September 2011, the girl was again a source of worry at the high school, Osborn wrote.

In addition to the school district, the lawsuit named Fairfax Hospital and the parents of the girl who attacked the teens. Those other parties earlier settled out of court.

The case was brought to make schools safer, Osborn said.

“The only way we can force change is through monetary payment,” he said. “April and her parents would avoid this situation at any cost if possible, because they know no amount of money will restore April’s lost sense of security, or fully heal her emotional and physical wounds.”

Kristin Foley, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the district constantly is evaluating how to make its campuses safer.

“This has been very difficult for everyone involved,” she said.

She added: “We trusted the jury process. The jury made its decision. Now we move forward.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Designed for special emergencies, texting 911 widely misused

The majority of texts dispatchers receive are better handled by calling, a SNOPAC official says.

Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on Interstate 405, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Bothell, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans Tuesday to try to decrease congestion on I-405 in answer to commuter complaints that the new express lane tolling system is making traffic worse. The governor said he would not be shutting down the tolling system as some people have called for. But the state transportation department is making plans to add new northbound general purpose lanes to ease some of the congestion and also plan to make it easier to move into and out of the express lanes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
After a 2-year trial, are I-405’s toll lanes here to stay?

Lawmakers will decide whether to keep them or end the experiment and try something else.

Weary drivers using toll lanes say they have little choice

Congestion continues to be a tedious reality for commuters on I-405, which is as clogged as ever.

Arlington woman dies 4 days after Marysville crash

She was on the northbound onramp from Fourth Street to I-5 when her pickup hit a tree and fence.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Terrace woman held following collision in Everett

The three occupants in vehicle were transported to a local hospital in serious condition.

Information sought on drive-by shooting in Everett

Debris from an apparent crash, evidence of gunfire found in the 2800 block of California Street.

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Everett’s lawsuit against maker of OxyContin can proceed

Purdue Pharma says it’s not liable for the impacts of opioid addiction and wanted the case tossed.

Most Read