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TRUMBULL COUNTY Officials found not liable in death of high schooler



Published: Thu, June 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A juror said there was not enough proof to show the district was negligent.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A jury in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court found that Lakeview High School officials were not liable in the death of a 14-year-old student who died after suffering an asthma attack.

The jurors, who deliberated about 90 minutes before returning a verdict Wednesday, found that a school nurse and gym teacher were not negligent in their actions the day Matthew Spencer died.

Spencer, 14, died Jan. 27, 1997, after suffering an asthma attack during gym class. The boy's parents, Helen and Jeffrey Spencer, filed the wrongful death lawsuit.

"All the jurors felt that the plaintiff didn't have enough proof to show the district was negligent," said Steve Arnold, who served on the jury. "It was a terrible tragedy and an extremely difficult case. I feel very bad for the family."

When the verdict was read, Helen Spencer began crying. Both parents declined to comment.

"It's a very difficult time for them," said Atty. Rodger Pelagalli, who represents the family.

Pelagalli said he didn't know if an appeal would be filed.

"I will go over everything with my clients and we will decide what to do," Pelagalli said.

Atty. Daniel Mason, who represented the school district, said the case is tragic but he doesn't believe anyone was to blame for the boy's death.

"We're so sorry this happened," Mason said. "This case does bring closure for everyone, including the teachers and school officials."

Case details

According to the suit, Matthew had a history of physical problems associated with chronic asthma.

On Jan. 27, 1997, Matthew told his physical education teacher at Lakeview High School that he was suffering from an asthma attack and needed his inhaler, the suit states. It continues that the gym teacher sent Matthew to the locker room alone and did not check on Matthew.

While unsupervised in the locker room, Matthew's asthma attack led to cardiac arrest and he died, the suit explains.

"It's terrible, very tragic," said Robert Wilson, Lakeview High School principal. "I am so sorry for the parents that this happened. I am pleased the case is over and my staff can now have closure."

sinkovich@vindy.com




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