A lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Unified School District by the parents of a 12-year-old Torrance boy who collapsed while running laps in 2018 and later died can go to trial on a negligence claim, but not on the plaintiffs' premises liability allegation, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Edward B. Moreton heard arguments Friday on the LAUSD's motion to dismiss the case brought in March 2019 by Festus Onuwa Alagba and Clara Alagba, then took the case under submission. His final decision mirrors the tentative ruling he issued last week.
According to the lawsuit, the boy was told to run five laps around the field at Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes during his physical education class on March 6, 2018, even though he told his teacher he had the flu and could not participate. The child — identified only as F.A. in court papers — informed his teacher after the third lap that he was tired and wanted to stop, but he was ordered to keep running, the suit alleged.
The boy collapsed on the fourth lap and remained unattended "for a substantial amount of time until it became clear to the teacher that (the boy) was not playing pranks," according to his parents' court papers.
The child was not given CPR until paramedics arrived, and he was pronounced dead about 1:55 p.m. at Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, the suit states. An autopsy report showed he died from cardiac arrest with viral infection as a contributing factor, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs believe the school staff had an automated external defibrillator in or near the main office, but it was not used to help their son.
"It was only until (after) paramedics arrived on the scene that an AED was deployed on F.A., who was already pulseless and unconscious," according to the suit.
LAUSD lawyers argued in their court papers that the boy did not die from the district's negligence, but instead from an undiagnosed coronary artery defect that was unforeseeable and therefore the district had no obligation to do more.
The judge disagreed in his final ruling.
"Defendant's view of its duty is too narrow," the judge wrote. "Schools have a duty of supervision."
The school's teachers were trained in CPR and an AED was kept on campus, so it was therefore predictable that a student could suffer an emergency requiring medical attention, the judge further noted.
In dismissing the premises liability claim, Moreton said the plaintiffs had not shown how having one AED in the school's main office and not having an additional device near the athletic field or physical education office created a dangerous condition.