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CUSD Sued Over Boy’s Swing Accident

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After falling off a swing set and breaking his leg, West Point Elementary School student Kenneth Hawes of Wilseyville, is suing the Calaveras Unified School District.

The accident happened on Aug. 11, 2003. Hawes, 12, was swinging on the swing set in the school´s playground on his recess break when the swing´s chain came off the hook, court filings said.

“He fell and broke a bone in his leg,” said his attorney, William Owen of Timmons, Owen and Owen in Sacramento.

“We claim the swing set was defective,” Owen said. “The school district denies that it was defective.”

“He´s alleging that the play structure was dangerous,” Alesa Schachter, the district´s attorney said. “The district is absolutely denying that and is denying any liability at all to the plaintiff.”

Schachter is with Johnson Schachter and Lewis of Sacramento.

“There´s some evidence to suggest that the way the plaintiff was swinging in the swing, that he wasn´t just swinging, that he was doing other things that my have caused the problem,” she said.

Kenneth´s mother, Kim, filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son in August after the school district Board of Trustees denied her claim.

School district Superintendent Jim Frost said denying the claim is how the school district gets its insurance company to “kick in.”

The district belongs to the Tuolumne Joint Powers Authority (JPA), a self-insurance organization with other schools in Calaveras County and schools in Amador, Alpine and Tuolumne counties. The alliance covers claims of up to $25,000. Above that, the district would have to go through the larger JPA of schools under the Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Programs (ASCIP).

Owen said his client hasn´t come up with a figure for damages.

Denying claims “happens hundreds of times,” Frost said. “Almost of every board agenda you´ll see claims denied. We have kids fall and break arms on playground equipment all the time. We want to take care of those things. That´s why we have insurance.”

Schachter has until Jan. 7 to file an answer to Hawes´ claim.

Read more of this story at The Calaveras Enterprise.