A Southern California school district agreed to an $18 million settlement with parents of a special needs child who died after falling out of his chair on campus five years ago, lawyers for the boy’s family said Wednesday.

Moises Murillo and his mother Roberta Gomez.
Moises Murillo and his mother Roberta Gomez. Carrillo Law Firm, LLP via AP

Moises Murillo, then 8, had a severe form of Down syndrome and was using his highly specialized chair on May 31, 2017 during summer classes at Sunset Elementary in La Puente. Moises, who was unable to walk, was taken out of the adaptive stroller and strapped into a normal school chair so he could participate in a classroom activity, according to a lawsuit filed by his family against the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District.

The unattended child fell backward, hitting his head on the floor, severely injuring his spinal cord and leading to his death days later, Moises’ loved ones said.

“My brother did mean everything to us,” sister Lizbeth Murillo told reporters on Wednesday. “And to this day, my mom might look like she’s okay and that she’s fine, but she’s not.”

Even with the settlement in hand, family attorney Steve Vartazarian tore into the school district for it handling of the matter.

“We fought for years to get some answers about what happened. And this district would not answer any questions about it,” Vartazarian said. “Instead, they tried tried to sweep it under the rug as if nothing happened.”

The district agreed to a settlement just before the case was about to go to trial in late June, according to Vartazarian.

Representatives of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District did not return several messages seeking the district’s response on Thursday.

But the district’s board of education minutes from a June 30 meeting showed that trustees went into a closed session to hear from district legal counsel on a matter of “significant exposure to litigation.”

Board members, in this closed-door meeting, approved “litigation settlement” with a special education student by a 5-0 vote, according to the minutes.

Lawyers for the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, the estate of Moises Murillo, asked for the Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit to be dismissed on Aug. 1 and the court signed off on dismissal a day later, records showed.


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