Hillsborough school district juggles lawsuits - FOX 13 News

Hillsborough school district juggles lawsuits

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Hillsborough School Board Chair April Griffin says she was shocked to see so many lawsuits against the school district.

"I think sometimes people think we have deep pockets. And some of the minor things we are sued for --we live in a very litigious society."

Recently she asked the board's attorney to begin making the litigation reports available to them for their board meetings.

"If we can see the reports and if we can see a pattern, in some of the lawsuits that we see, then maybe we need to look into a certain area and look into our governance. Change the policy or the procedure revolving around that," Griffin said.

We took a look at this report. It has about 50 pending lawsuits in it.

In one, a 51-year-old female goes to her child's school to pay for lunches, and allegedly falls on milk spilled in the cafeteria. Her allegation is that someone at the school knew or should have known about the milk on the floor. The case is still pending.

Another case involves the parents of a 9-year-old who allegedly was hit in the eye by a dodge ball. The lawsuit claims the minor was hit three times and the coach failed to provide any medical care or refer her to the nurse's office. The plaintiff's first attorney withdrew as counsel, so they have 30 days to seek new counsel.

April Griffin says every time a lawsuit is filed, we all pay for it.

"There's the cost of the attorneys...we as taxpayers are paying for our attorneys to fight these litigations," she said.

Griffin says she expected to see some of the lawsuits, including one from the family of Jenny Caballero. The young girl got away from her PE class at Rodgers Middle School and drowned in a nearby pond. Her family is suing for negligent supervision.

Griffin says these special needs cases is one reason she asked for the litigation reports to be made public. She says they might have been able to act on policy changes more quickly.

"Those things were already in the process of being worked on, having different policies and procedures, things done to resolve those issues. But I know that I would have seen a pattern with some of those things in there," Griffin said.

The district does set aside money for lawsuits, and the money is earmarked just for that. But it doesn't have to go to settling claims.

"No, it doesn't have to go to that. And it is definitely part of our budget, it's earmarked specifically for this. But these are dollars that could go into the classroom to educate children, instead of going into attorney fees, " Griffin said.

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