VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 33   |   AUGUST 17 - 23, 2011


CCUSD facing more lawsuits

Oral arguments set for Aug. 23 in Goldwater Institute complaint
Although the lawsuit doesn’t state which model slide Black Mountain Elementary School rented for its Fall Festival, this “Screamer Slide” is one of the many models available from Inflatable Fun, also named as a defendant in the complaint.

CCUSD – On Aug. 8, 2011, Richard and Jennifer Dobbs filed a lawsuit against Cave Creek Unified School District and The Inflatable Team, Inc. (dba Inflatable Fun) on behalf of their daughter Kayla, who was injured using an inflatable slide while attending the Fall Festival at Black Mountain Elementary School in October 2010.

According to the complaint, the two-person slide, separated by a divider, rented from The Inflatable Team, had no posted warnings, instructions or directions on proper use of the slide.

Additionally, it states there was no one in a supervisory position located anywhere near the slide to regulate its use.

Kayla and another boy, who challenged Kayla to a race, jumped off the slide and Kayla landed at the bottom of the slide landing area, fracturing her tibia and fibula.

Although Kayla was said to have used the slide as “reasonably and prudent” as a 10-year-old child would, plaintiffs state the district and The Inflatable Team breached their duty by allowing her “to take part in an unreasonable and foreseeably dangerous activity.”

Additionally, it states defendants were negligent in hiring, or failing to hire, individuals to oversee the Fall Festival participants and failed to oversee or properly train employees on proper slide usage.

The Dobbs are seeking damages to pay for the medical services and treatments incurred as a result.

Another complaint against the district was filed on March 8, 2011 by Frank and Deborah (Debbie) Dominick in the amount of $276,976 for injuries it claims Frank sustained on Saturday, March 9, 2010 when the batting cage L-net at Cactus Shadows High School failed to stop a ball, which instead hit Frank in the face, causing serious injuries.

According to the complaint, Frank and Charlie, a student athlete and member of the CSHS baseball team went to the school grounds that Saturday for batting practice, something they say the district coaches encourage to improve their batting skills.

Frank was kneeling behind the pitching net (L-net) “soft-tossing” baseballs to Charlie. He soft tossed about three pitches which Charlie hit into the L-net and were stopped. During the fourth toss, Charlie hit the ball but the net did not stop the ball and hit his father in the face.
The injuries sustained by Frank, some of which are permanent in nature, included left anterior frontal sinus damage, anterior wall fracture, left orbital roof and linear posterior wall fracture, a 3.5 cm long forehead/nasal bridge laceration, and a closed head injury with concussive symptoms.

Frank’s injuries required extensive medical care and treatment, including two titanium plates and 16 screws to reconstruct his face.

On May 30, 2010, Frank e-mailed Superintendent Debbi Burdick about the incident. A few days later, Burdick responded to Frank’s wife Debbie, by referring her to Lori Hays at the district, who in turn directed the Dominicks to Sheri Stroud with The Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, who spoke to Debbie about the incident, instructed her on the Notice of Claim requirements and faxed the Dominicks a Notice of Claim (NOC) form.

That same day, the Dominicks received a letter from Tom Varela from the Trust, acknowledging the claim submitted via telephone to Stroud and directing them to comply with A.R.S. § 12-821.01, which spells out the claim and service requirements.

When Frank completed and signed the NOC on June 22, 2010. he wrote, “to be determined” in the “amount of claim” section since he was still being treated for his injuries and his medical bills were still accruing.

That same day, Varela told Debbie it was OK to mail the NOC, via certified mail, to the district superintendent to effect service.

On July 6, 2010, Debbie sent a letter signed by Frank, explaining the March 9, 2010 incident and his injuries to Burdick along with the NOC form and medical records, via certified mail.
Debbie also sent copies of the same to Varela, who, two days later, confirmed certified mail to Burdick was sufficient for service.

After 60 days had passed, Debbie contacted Varela for an update on the status on their claim and was told the file had been turned over the district’s Attorney Dave Pauole for review.

On Sept. 9, 2010, Debbie contacted Pauole, who instructed her to send the July 6, 2010 letter to every member of the school board via certified mail and include a specific settlement amount.

On Sept. 19, the Dominicks wrote in a monetary amount of $276,976 on the NOC and revised the July 6 letter, dating it Sept. 19 and addressing it to all of the governing board members.

The revised letter and NOC was then sent by certified mail to Burdick and each of the board members with copies faxed to Pauole per his request.

When Debbie contacted Pauole in October for a status update, Pauole told her there was nothing he could do unless the Dominicks filed a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Dominicks state the adjuster, acting as an agent for the district, violated Arizona law by giving them advice regarding the notice of claim requirements and process. They said, after he reviewed their claim, Varela was aware of any potential deficiencies before the 180-day window for filing expired. He also was aware their claim might be barred for improper service or for failure to specify an exact amount for which the claim could be settled.

The complaint states, “The adjuster lulled and/or induced the plaintiffs into the belief that they had completed and served the notice of claim properly.”

The district admitted in its answer that counsel informed Debbie on Oct. 11, 2010 their claim was denied and the Dominicks’ only option for a recovery was to proceed with a lawsuit.
Oral arguments have just been set for 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 23 in Maricopa County Superior Court, Central Court Building, 201 W. Jefferson, Room 401, in Friedman v. CCUSD, the complaint filed by the Goldwater Institute to halt the use of 2000 bond money for projects other than those approved by voters.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eileen Willett has allotted 45 minutes for arguments on all pending motions.

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