$5.5 million verdict after teacher engages in ongoing sexual contact with teen student. San Bernardino County.


High school teacher engages in ongoing sexual contact with a female freshman. District disputes extent of plaintiff's injuries and offers $100,000 before trial.

The Case

  • Case Name: Emily H. v. Chino Valley Unified School District
  • Court and Case Number: San Bernardino (Rancho Cucamonga)/ CIV-RS-1105580
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, June 09, 2011
  • Type of Case: Sexual Abuse
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Janet Frangie
  • Plaintiffs:
    Emily H., 14 y.o. minor
  • Defendants:
    Chino Valley Unified School District; and John Hirsch
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $5,590,000
  • Net Verdict or Award: $5,590,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    CVUSD: $3,390,000 Hirsch: $2,200,000

    Per defense counsel: The jury found the plaintiff's parents to have been negligent, but did not apportion any fault to them since they did not conclude it was a substantial factor.

  • Economic Damages:

    Future therapy expenses: $90,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past emotional distress: $3,000,000

    Future emotional distress: $2,500,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days
  • Jury Polls: 10-2

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Taylor & Ring by David M. Ring, Los Angeles.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Bell Orrock & Watase Inc by Dennis Popka, Riverside.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Charol Shakeshaft, school policies, Virginia
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Patricia Jaffe, school policies, Culver City
    Veronica Thomas, Ph.D., psychology, Tustin

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff Emily was 14 years old and a freshman at Chino Hills High School when her science teacher, John Hirsch, engaged in unlawful sexual activities with her. Hirsch was 40 years old.

    Hirsch was subsequently arrested and convicted of unlawful sex with a minor and served a year in jail.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the school district was liable for its negligent retention and supervision of Hirsch.

    In October 2010 the District learned of inappropriate emails sent by Hirsch to plaintiff. Hirsch was disciplined and ordered to stay away from the girl. Within weeks, Hirsch had the girl back in his classroom at lunch frequently. In February, the district informed Hirsch it was terminating his employment, effective at the end of the school year. Hirsch then began engaging in illegal sexual acts with the girl both in the classroom and off the school site. In June, Hirsch was caught using a ladder to try to climb into the girl's bedroom at her home.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    The School District claimed it appropriately disciplined Hirsch for the emails and never learned of any other misconduct by him for the remainder of the school year. The District disputed the nature and extent of the girl's claimed injuries and damages.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Severe emotional distress.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $5,000 (waived by plaintiff); $10,000 per defense.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $90,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $2,000,000 per defense counsel.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $100,000

Additional Notes

Emily was 17 years old at the time of trial.

Per defense counsel: The trial court ruled that the defendants could not raise comparative fault as a defense in a negligence action and this, among other legal issues, will be the subject of appellate review.