|Home > News > Deliberate Indifference - State Liable for Damages (June 21, 2001)|
In a decision which defines for Felix class members the circumstances under which the state is liable for damages, U. S. District Court Chief Judge David Ezra ruled that the State of Hawaii is liable to a 19 year old disabled student from Molokai, for conduct labeled as "deliberate indifference." Suit was brought by the student under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which act forbids the State of Hawaii from discriminating in the provision of education to disabled children.
"In the suit, the family alleged that Molokai's crisis of personnel shortages in special education teachers, speech therapists and educational aides had caused Aaron L. to be denied an appropriate education. The court agreed.
Judge Ezra found
that the severe personnel shortages on Molokai were known by Molokai
High school, the Maui District Office, and State of Hawaii officials.
The court stated that the state's repeated failure to adequately fund
special education was no excuse to fail to meet the federal education
standards. It further
This ruling means that the sole issue at trial, which is presently scheduled for September 2001, will be the amount of damages that should be paid by the state to the plaintiff family. When told of Judge Ezra's ruling, Mrs. L., Aaron's mother, said the decision helps the family deal with the DOE's conscious neglect of Aaron's needs.
She went on to say
that this was "a victory for all Felix children on Molokai."
cannot excuse a knowing failure to provide these services because of
a lack of funds commitment from the state legislature. In sum, deliberate
indifference by the state government cannot provide an excuse for another
arm of state government, the DOE, from meeting its knowing legal obligation
DAVIS LEVIN LIVINGSTON
damages case against Hawaii.