United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
WALTER HENRY, individually, and MARGARET HENRY, individually, and as next of friends of M.H., a minor child, Plaintiffs,
KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. POPLIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and the referral Order [Doc.
25] of the District Judge.
before the Court is a Joint Motion for Approval of
Minor's Settlement (“Joint Motion”) [Doc.
22]. The Joint Motion requests that the Court approve the
settlement agreement reached by the parties with respect to
the claims of M.H. The parties appeared before the Court on
February 6, 2019, for a motion hearing. Attorney Jacob Erwin
appeared on behalf of Plaintiffs, and Attorneys Amanda Morse
and David Sanders appeared on behalf of Defendants.
Accordingly, for the reasons further explained below, the
Court RECOMMENDS that the Joint Motion
[Doc. 22] be GRANTED.
initial matter, the Court has placed the settlement agreement
[Doc. 22-1] and the Statement for Attorney's Fees,
Expenses, Costs, and Disbursements to Plaintiffs' Counsel
[Doc. 24] under seal. The Court determined that M.H's
privacy interest in the settlement agreement outweighs the
public's interest in these Court records. Accordingly,
when discussing the amount of the settlement agreement, the
Court will use the terms “Gross Amount” and
“Net Amount” without referencing specific
Complaint [Doc. 1] in this case was filed on August 7, 2018.
The Complaint states that M.H. (hereinafter, the
“Minor”) was diagnosed at an early age with
autism, mild mental retardation, and extreme schizophrenia.
[Doc. 1 at ¶ 18]. Due to his conditions, the Minor has
limited verbal abilities, and he is unable to effectively
express himself or communicate through speech.
[Id.]. The Complaint submits that the Minor has a
tendency to repeat words and phrases he has heard and that
his diagnoses require daily prescription medications.
Complaint alleges that in August 2017, the Minor's
parents, Walter and Margaret Henry (hereinafter, the
“Henrys”), enrolled the Minor in South-Doyle
Middle School, where he was assigned to Defendant Evelyn
Gill's classroom. [Id. at ¶ 19]. Prior to
the start of school, the Henrys met with Defendant Gill, who
exhibited a very aggressive demeanor. [Id.]. The
Henrys told the principal their concerns with respect to
Defendant Gill's demeanor, but the principal dismissed
these concerns. [Id.].
Complaint states that on August 7, 2017, the Minor attended
his first day of school at South-Doyle Middle School.
[Id. at ¶ 21]. When the Henrys asked about his
new school, the Minor responded by covering his mouth with
his hand, stating “You're as sorry as a
kindergartner.” [Id.]. The Complaint states
that because the Minor is essentially nonverbal, he was
unable to describe what was happening to him in Defendant
Gill's classroom. [Id.]. The Complaint states
that on or about August 18, 2017, the Tennessee Department of
Children's Services (“DCS”) launched an
investigation into the abuse by Defendant Gill at South-Doyle
Middle School. [Id. at ¶ 22]. The Henrys
believe that the abuse began on August 7, 2017, and continued
until Defendant Gill was placed on administrative leave on
September 5, 2017. [Id.].
Complaint submits that DCS contacted the Henrys for a home
visit to inform them of the investigation and the allegations
against Defendant Gill. [Id. at ¶ 23]. The
Henrys were advised that the Minor's classmates and a
teacher's assistant witnessed the physical and
psychological abuse inflicted upon the Minor. [Id.].
Specifically, it was reported that when the Minor rested his
head on his desk, Defendant Gill forcefully picked up the
desk and slammed it on the ground causing the Minor to hit
his head on the desk. [Id.].
Complaint avers that the Henrys made multiple attempts to
discuss the allegations with the principal and other Knox
County and school officials to no avail. [Id. at
¶ 26]. The Complaint states that neither DCS, nor any
other official, followed up with the Henrys to inform them of
the results of the investigation. [Id.]. The
Complaint contends that on October 20, 2017, Defendant Gill
was removed from administrative leave and was scheduled to
return to work on October 23, 2017, as a special education
teacher at Fulton High School in Knox County, Tennessee.
[Id. at ¶ 27]. The Compliant states, however,
that she did not return to work, but instead, submitted her
resignation on or about October 31, 2017. [Id. at
Complaint alleges that school records and Defendant
Gill's personnel file reveal extensive disciplinary
matters dating back to 2005. [Id. at ¶ 30]. The
Complaint states that despite her disciplinary matters,
Defendant Gill was allowed contact with the Minor and other
special needs children. [Id. at ¶ 34]. The
Complaint avers that the other Defendants had direct
knowledge of Defendant Gill's abuse and neglect and that
they failed to remove Defendant Gill from the classroom.
[Id. at ¶ 35].
Complaint alleges violations of the following statutes: 42
U.S.C. § 1983; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and
§ 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In addition,
the Complaint alleges negligence, negligence per se, and
various intentional torts.
did not file an answer to the Complaint. Instead, the parties
filed a Notice of Pending Settlement [Doc. 21] on November
26, 2018, explaining that they mediated the case on November
15, 2018, and agreed to settle this matter.