CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Steve Vartazarian delivering his closing argument
Van Nuys, CA - A California state court jury awarded $30 million on Thursday to the mother of a six-year-old child who was beaten to death by a Los Angeles Unified School District employee, and the full trial was recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
The Los Angeles County jury returned their verdict shortly after hearing closing arguments in a trial that began August 7. Plaintiff Kenya Taylor sued LAUSD following the death of her son Dayvon in 2019. She accused LAUSD of negligently hiring Tyler D'Shaun Martin Brand, who killed Dayvon while babysitting him at her apartment.
Her lawsuit accused LAUSD of negligent hiring, alleging Brand had a checkered employment history and that he’d never have met Dayvon without supervising him at an after-school program. LAUSD maintained they should not be responsible for a murder that occurred on private property and outside of school hours, and that Brand had passed numerous background checks.
The jury assigned 10 percent liability to Taylor, reducing the actual collectible award to $27 million.
Unlimited on-demand access to the full trial is available with a subscription to CVN’s online trial video library. In addition to this trial, both monthly and annual subscribers get access to hundreds of trials from throughout the United States featuring top plaintiff and defense civil trial attorneys.
Attorney Steve Vartazarian of The Vartazarian Law Firm, who represented Taylor, told CVN after the trial that the school district’s highest settlement offer was $75,000, an amount Vartazarian found so incongruous with the facts of the case that he refused to make a settlement demand.
“I didn’t mediate the case. I didn’t make a demand. I didn’t do anything. I just said I’m trying this case,” Vartazarian explained.
An attorney for LAUSD did not respond to a request for comment.
Vartazarian said jurors told him in conversations after the trial they felt the school district “really dropped the ball in their hiring protocols.” He said jurors never saw evidence of one-on-one interviews or the checking of references and verification of past employment prior to hiring a new employee.
“That was very upsetting to them,” he said.
Vartazarian revealed that pre-trial focus groups showed jurors reacted so strongly to the alleged negligent hiring practices that they didn’t care deeply about so-called “bad facts” like Taylor asking Brand to babysit her son or allowing her into their home.
He felt the defense miscalculated in focusing on those aspects of the case both at trial and in determining their settlement position.
“It was the defendant’s negligent hiring that brought this man into the plaintiff’s world,” Vartazarian said. “When you don’t know what’s important, everything is important - and that’s how you can lose a case.”
Vartazarian said his focus grouping showed that jurors would still have an issue with some of Taylor’s decisions, so he attempted to preemptively address that by asking jurors to assign her 10 percent liability.
When the defense made clear a meaningful settlement was off the table, Vartazarian said he turned his efforts towards achieving a policy change via a large jury verdict.
“My hope is that someone on behalf of LAUSD will recognize that improper inept HR policies and practices and hiring, when you don’t ask anyone any questions and you just bring them in to be with our kids, is going to change through this verdict,” he said.
The case took place before Judge Michael Harwin.
LAUSD was represented by Gary A. Bacio of Bacio & Associates.
The car is captioned Kenya Taylor v. Los Angeles Unified School District, case number 20STCV33128 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
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