Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP partner Robert Glassman and firm attorney Erika Contreras have obtained a $15,750,000 settlement from the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District for the mother of 13-year-old Adilene Carrasco who suffered an asthma attack at school and died as a result of the district’s failure to follow its own safety protocols. This is believed to be the largest asthma-related death settlement in California.
In addition to the monetary settlement and as a condition of the agreement, the district has agreed to partner with area asthma medical experts to provide asthma management training to its teachers and staff, adopt the California School Board Association’s best practices on school-based asthma management as well as implement changes to its existing protocols relating to the safety and supervision of students with medical conditions.
Adilene’s mother and her attorneys are currently working with California State Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh on drafting a bill with a focus on asthma safety and management in schools across California, to be named in honor of Adilene.
“Adilene’s death was a preventable tragedy that resonates and reaffirms the fear of every parent and caregiver of an asthmatic child,” said attorney Robert Glassman. “Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism and the number one reason school-age children go the emergency room. More must be done to ensure that every district adopts and implements asthma management practices so that no other family suffers the loss of a child due to school district negligence.”
On October 31, 2019, Adilene joined her last period science class on a long walk from the classroom to the upper athletic field to participate in a ‘pumpkin chuckin’ contest. When Adilene arrived to the field, she had difficulty breathing and asked her teacher for permission to walk back to the classroom to retrieve her inhaler. The teacher told Adilene she could go, and to bring a friend with her, never asking if she felt well enough to walk. When Adilene returned to the field, she asked the teacher if she could go to the nurse’s office — she wasn’t feeling well and her inhaler did not help her. Despite Adilene’s obvious worsening condition, the teacher sent both girls walking without an adult to the main campus where Adilene was spotted struggling by a campus monitor who drove her to the nurse’s office in full respiratory distress – Adilene had suffered a severe asthma attack, lost consciousness, and gone into cardiac arrest before paramedics arrived to transport her. She died nine days later at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.
Adilene may still be alive today if her teacher had read her student profile, or the district had made the teacher aware of Adilene’s asthma action plan. A red flag on Adilene’s student profile indicated she suffered from asthma and that she had a known history of asthma attacks at school, including two documented attacks in the months leading up to her death – neither of which was known by the teacher prior to the day of the incident because she failed to review Adilene’s profile at the start of the semester.
“Common sense tells you the last thing you would want to do is send a child on a long walk uphill without adult supervision when she’s having an asthma attack. Yet, that’s exactly what Adilene’s teacher did on October 31, 2019. By doing so, she violated school district policy and was negligent,” said attorney Robert Glassman.
A pediatric pulmonologist from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Jonathan Gaffin, hired by Adilene’s family, concluded that by having Adilene walk to the nurse’s office (instead of having a cart pick her up and/or have an adult chaperone escort her there), the science teacher worsened or exacerbated the severity of Adilene’s asthma attack by physically exerting herself which caused her death.
As a condition of the settlement with Adilene’s mother, and to help prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again, the District is required to implement changes to its policies and procedures including creating a staff checklist for affirming review and acknowledgment of students with identified medical conditions, retain a pulmonologist to train staff on oversight of asthmatic students, implement a partnership with the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center’s “Breathmobile” Program at no cost to the students, adopt the California School Board Association’s Administrative Regulation regarding Asthma Management at the recommendation of the District’s Superintendent and create a commemoration of Adilene at Mesa View Middle School.
Plaintiff was also represented in the matter by co-counsel Brian E. Claypool and Nathalie Vallejos of The Claypool Law Firm.