The families of the five Marysville-Pilchuck High School students shot on campus in 2014 have settled a lawsuit against the school district’s insurance company for $18 million, according to documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court on Monday morning.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit alleging that a substitute teacher had been told of the possibility of a shooting but failed to alert school officials.
The settlement amount was determined by the cap of the district’s insurance policy, which was $20 million, said Lincoln Beauregard, the attorney representing the family.
“The plaintiffs elected not to pursue amounts that would erode the school district’s general budget that is designated for educating and protecting students,” Beauregard wrote in a settlement agreement.
Most Read Local Stories
- Seattle police clear CHOP protest zone WATCH
- Coronavirus daily news updates, July 1: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- At least 80 UW students in fraternities test positive for coronavirus, a foreboding sign for college reopenings
- Snohomish County might move back to Phase 1 if coronavirus cases start rapidly climbing
- Shooting at Seattle's CHOP protest site kills 16-year-old boy, leaves 14-year-old seriously injured
“The facts of this case are tragic, and the errors that led to this lawsuit, substantial,” Beauregard wrote.
At the same time, he wrote, the school district, the substitute teacher, Rosemary Cooper, and the insurance companies “handled this matter with great dignity and respect for the aggrieved families.”
Beauregard noted that a claim against Raymond Fryberg, the father of the shooter who purchased the gun used in the shootings, remains active.
Messages seeking comment from Cooper’s attorney, David Schoeggl, were not returned.
The lawsuit was filed by the families of the four students who were killed and a fifth who was critically wounded when 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg gathered five friends at a table in the high-school cafeteria on Oct. 24, 2014, then opened fire on them with a .40-caliber Beretta handgun before killing himself.
Killed were Gia Soriano, Zoe Gallaso and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, all 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15.
A fifth student, Nate Hatch, 15, was shot in the face but survived.
Cooper, a substitute teacher, claimed that she had warned school officials of the impending mass shooting, but later it was revealed that she may actually not have told anyone.
The lawsuit initially named the school district itself, but it was dropped as a defendant after the School Board agreed to identify Cooper as a school employee whose actions, if reasonable, would be covered by insurance.
Cooper’s claim that she had warned the school about the shooting first surfaced in a 1,400-page report released by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. She told detectives that, on Oct. 22, she was told by a student that there was going to be a shooting and that she reported it to the front office.
Cooper retracted part of the story to detectives, though later she claimed she was pressured to do so.
Likewise, the teacher has said he did not receive any note.
The new documents also include notes from Cooper’s medical files, turned over in discovery, that raise additional questions. Notes from two therapists Cooper saw in July 2016 indicate Cooper “was suffering from extreme guilt for never having passed along the student warning.”
One therapist wrote that Cooper was “feeling guilty that prior to the shooting … a student showed her a text message where the perpetrator had texted he was going to kill himself but the student said not to worry … and (Cooper) did not follow up with staff.”
Cooper, the therapist wrote, “is filled with regret that she did not specifically report what she heard, feeling if she did, there may have been another outcome.”
Investigators and attorneys have never found anyone Cooper spoke with, and the teacher she was subbing for recalled no mention of anything like it in Cooper’s handoff note.
“An entire school staff does not forget about being warned of an impending shooting,” wrote Beauregard, the attorney representing the families. “The truth is that a student warned Ms. Cooper of the shooting, and excessive guilt has caused her to create stories to the public about purportedly properly conveying the warnings.”