Families in high school shooting settle lawsuit for $18M

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SEATTLE (AP) — The families of five Washington state high school students shot in a high school cafeteria in 2014 have settled a lawsuit against the school district's insurance company for $18 million.

Attorney Lincoln Beauregard, who represented the plaintiffs, said the settlement amount was determined by the cap of the Marysville School District's insurance policy, which was $20 million, The Seattle Times reported (https://goo.gl/Bm4J1c).

The settlement stems from a lawsuit alleging that a substitute teacher had been told of the possibility of a shooting but failed to alert school officials.

The plaintiffs elected not to pursue amounts that would erode the school district's general budget designated for educating and protecting students, according to documents filed Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court.

"The facts of this case are tragic, and the errors that led to this lawsuit, substantial," Beauregard wrote.

At the same time, he wrote, the school district, the substitute teacher, Rosemary Cooper, and the insurance companies "handled this matter with great dignity and respect for the aggrieved families."

Four students were killed and a fifth critically injured on Oct. 24, 2014, when 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg opened fire on them before killing himself at Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle.

Gia Soriano, Zoe Gallaso and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, all 14, and 15-year-old Andrew Fryberg were killed. A fifth student, 15-year-old Nate Hatch, was shot in the face but survived.

Cooper, a substitute teacher, said that she had warned school officials of the impending mass shooting, but later it was revealed that she may actually not have told anyone.

The lawsuit initially named the school district itself, but it was dropped as a defendant after the School Board agreed to indemnify Cooper as a school employee whose actions, if reasonable, would be covered by insurance.

Cooper's claim that she had warned the school about the shooting first surfaced in a report released by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. She told detectives that, on Oct. 22, she was told by a student that there was going to be a shooting, and that she reported it to the front office.

Cooper retracted part of the story to detectives, though later she claimed she was pressured to do so.

According to court documents, Cooper claims she told someone in the attendance office about the message and wrote a note to the teacher whose class she was covering. But detectives and civil attorneys have not turned up anyone she talked to, and the teacher said he did not receive any note, documents said.

Additionally, notes in court documents from two therapists Cooper saw in July 2016 indicate Cooper "was suffering from extreme guilt for never having passed along the student warning."

A claim against Raymond Fryberg, the father of the shooter who purchased the gun used in the shootings, remains active, according to Beauregard.


Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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