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Abusive Schoolteacher Causes Physical and Emotional Trauma to Disabled Little Boy

A teacher in a California elementary school was asked to watch a special needs child while his usual teacher worked with other children. The child was acting up out of frustration and needed some time alone to regroup. Instead of helping the child recompose himself, the teacher forcefully restrained the child. First, she used her size to pin the child face-first on a sofa, sitting on his legs. Then, she put a beanbag on his back and leaned her weight into it, trapping the student beneath her and compressing his chest. When he complained he couldn’t breathe, she told him he must be able to breathe if he could talk.

The student’s parents contacted attorney Christopher Keane of San Francisco’s Keane Law Firm immediately after the incident. With more than twenty-five years of experience representing children who suffered abuse, Chris was happy to take the case — the illegal restraint of a disabled child.

The liability phase essentially took care of itself. The school district determined the restraint exceeded the education code and admitted as much. The teacher herself entered a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. However, proving damages was challenging. First and foremost, Chris needed to demonstrate how the teacher harmed the child. After the incident, the boy’s parents had taken him to see a physician for what appeared to be a rash on his face. It was petechiae — tiny hemorrhages that occur when venous branches rupture. While caused by intense stress, they didn’t hurt and went away fairly quickly. Moreover, Keane had the boy assessed and found no neurological damage. The typical sources of damage simply weren’t present.

As a veteran in the field, Keane understood that the actual harm in child abuse cases like this one came from the non-physical injuries — trauma that Defense attorneys, insurance companies, and jurors can’t necessarily see. Emotional damage is invisible. Keane knew that while the law doesn’t differentiate between physical and emotional injuries, physical trauma was the currency that resonated with Defense attorneys and insurance companies.

Chris needed a way to demonstrate the child’s emotional trauma in the same way an X-ray demonstrates a broken bone. He called DK Global, and together, they produced an animation that reconstructed the teacher’s horrific abuse.

The video began by showing the size discrepancy between the 150-pound teacher and the 64-pound boy. Next, the teacher was depicted using her larger frame to push the child on his back, holding him face-down on the floor. She then sat on his legs and leaned on his back while he was face-down on a couch. In the animation, the boy told the woman he can’t breathe. Her dreadful response: “If you couldn’t breathe, you wouldn’t be able to talk.”

The perspective then switched to an interior of the Plaintiff’s chest cavity, illustrating how the weight of the teacher prevented the boy’s diaphragm from expanding, allowing the air he needed to oxygenate his blood. Additionally, the pressure on the boy’s spine and sternum compressed the right atrium of his heart, limiting blood flow. The compression was so severe that it caused the small venous branches in the boy’s face and torso to burst, presenting as petechiae.

With the help of the animation, Christopher Keane resolved the case after a lengthy mediation, gaining a favorable settlement for the child and his family. Keane considered the resolution a significant success because it wasn’t linked to physical injuries or medical bills, as in many similar cases. He felt DK Global’s work was integral and that the company treated a difficult subject with sensitivity and dignity.

A native of Michigan, Christopher Keane has been based in California for more than half of his nearly thirty-year career. His solo firm, Keane Law, specializes in cases involving injured, abused, and deceased children. Keane has been rated as one of the leading Plaintiff’s Lawyers in America and won California's "Street Fighter of the Year" Award in 2017 by the California Association of Consumer Attorneys. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

 


"I would use this sort of video in any kind of my abuse cases just to re-emphasize the event and to demonstrate to the defense and the other decision-makers exactly what happened."
Chris Keane - The Keane Law Firm
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