A lawsuit against the Moreno Valley Unified School District was filed on Friday, September 11, for the death of Diego Stolz in late September 2019 due to an incident at Landmark Middle School. The suit could not be filed until now because the family did not have legal standing until a recent change in California state law.
Diego Stolz, 13, was assaulted during his lunch break by two other students who sucker-punched him on Monday, September 16, 2019. Stolz fell and hit his head, knocking him unconscious. The two students continued to land punches after he fell unconscious. Diego was sent to a hospital, where he remained on life support for 8 days before succumbing to his injuries on September 24.
Diego’s family was unable to pursue legal action until just recently, when Assembly Bill 2445, introduced by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes, was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 9, 2020. This bill expands what persons can sue on behalf of someone who has died “due to the wrongful act or neglect of another” to include legal guardians. Previously, California law only allowed parents this right. However, Stolz lived with his aunt and uncle, Juana and Felipe Salcedo, since his mother and father passed away in 2007 and 2014, respectively. Juana and Felipe were appointed legal guardians of Diego after his father’s death and therefore could not take action until AB 2445 passed.
The lawsuit names several individuals responsible for Diego’s wrongful death. Along with the two boys responsible for the actual assault, administrators Kamilah O’Connor and Pedro Gutierrez, both former assistant principals, and former principal Scott Walker have all been included, as well as the Moreno Valley Unified School District. According to statements made by the Salcedo’s’ attorney, Diego had been bullied by his two assailants before the fatal incident and had alerted the school administrators of his troubles. A meeting to discuss the situation was even held the Friday before the fatal incident occurred. However, the school administrators took no course of action to prevent the bullying from continuing.
Landmark Middle School is no stranger to violence. According to records pulled from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, between August 2018 and September 2019, deputies responded to a total of 137 calls for service at Landmark Middle. The Salcedos intend for their lawsuit to finally start some real preventative procedures, as they are seeking an injunction to force the school into enacting added protections, in addition to monetary damages.
There are many lessons to be learned when a troubling case like the death of Diego Stolz occurs. Along with so much other school violence within the last few years, this case shows that schools need to be alert and attentive to their students, and prepared so that future acts of violence are prevented. Improving the safety of our schools will foster a healthier learning environment for America’s youth and the benefits of that will be seen for years to come.
If you would like to learn more about the details of this case and how it may apply to a specific situation you are facing, feel free to reach out to one of our experienced attorneys at Karlin & Karlin. Our team can sit with you to discuss any of your questions in greater detail. Call today to schedule a consultation.
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