DANVILLE (CBS SF) — The family of a 15-year old San Ramon Valley High School freshman who drowned in the school’s swimming pool in Danville in May 2018 has agreed to an $8 million settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district, shortly before the case was supposed to go to trial.
The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has agreed to pay the settlement to Thomas and Karen Curry, who had sued the district and physical education teacher Aaron Becker in November 2018, six months after their son Benjamin drowned in the high school pool during a physical education class.
The settlement, reached Jan. 30, comes ahead of the scheduled trial in Contra Costa County Superior Court, which was set to begin Feb. 18.
“They’re relieved the litigation is over, but the pain from their loss will never go away,” said Andrew Schwartz, the Curry family’s attorney. “Litigation is always tough; when it involves the loss of a child, it is that much worse.”
Mark Davis, the school district’s attorney in this case, said he couldn’t go into detail about the settlement, as it had not been finalized as of Tuesday morning. But he said the district had been trying to reach an agreement with the family since before the lawsuit was filed.
“We’ve come to what I believe is an amicable settlement,” Davis said.
Benjamin Curry drowned on May 8, 2018, during a PE class led by Becker at the high school’s pool. According to the lawsuit, Becker told Curry and the other students to tread water for three minutes, and Becker extended that by 30 seconds.
Benjamin went under the water after the initial three minutes, the suit said. He was found by members of the following swimming class, and was pronounced dead a short time later at a nearby hospital.
The school district later made a public apology to the community, in which Superintendent Rick Schmitt also addressed false speculation that the drowning may have been a suicide. The Contra Costa County coroner’s office ruled the death as accidental.
Davis said the high school suspended using the swimming pool for classes shortly after the drowning, and that those classes have not yet been reinstated, pending a review of rules and procedures related to the safety of students.
Becker remains at the high school, as a physical education teacher and as the school’s head varsity football coach, Davis said. Becker currently faces no further legal sanctions, Davis added.
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