Court ruling ends years of frustration
Published: Tuesday, June 13th, 2006
A Supreme Court ruling has brought a morsel of closure to a Clovis mother who has had little since her daughter died seven years ago. The high court decreed Monday the parents of 14-year-old Sarah Upton, an asthmatic who died after a gym class, can sue the Clovis school district. The ruling reversed that of the state Court of Appeals. “We are elated,” Renee Upton said Tuesday night. “We are looking for closure.” A spokesperson for the Clovis Municipal Schools, David Briseno, declined to comment on the case. He said the schools are bound from commenting because litigation is pending. “Our anger,” said Upton, “has turned to feelings of wanting the schools to take responsibility for their actions in this matter. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to other children.” “Our children are our legacy. I believe all children need to be protected.” The Uptons have spent about seven years fighting to have a jury hear their case, according to the mother, who said the state Court of Appeals was “too narrow” in their dismissal of the case. Sarah, who had asthma since she was 3, collapsed at her desk during the class following physical education, according to reports. School personnel tried to give inhaler treatments, but did not administer CPR. Evidence suggests 15 minutes lapsed before the school called 911, the high court said. The Uptons allege the school district was negligent in the events leading up to the asthma attack and in its response. Under state law, government entities typically have immunity from such lawsuits. But when there is negligence in the operation or maintenance of any building, the law can be waived. The Supreme Court compared the safety procedures for special-needs students to other building safety procedures, such a fire exit procedures. Upton said she does not know when a jury will hear the case. The Uptons have hired Clovis lawyer Stephen Doerr as their legal representative. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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