The family of a 14-year-old student who died inside Gaithersburg High School in 2015 is suing the Montgomery County school district for $10 million, according to court records obtained by the News4 I-Team.
In their suit, Taylor Walton's mother said the girl died of an asthma attack during a gym class. The family’s suit said school staff, including the gym teacher, failed to properly respond to the girl’s breathing complaints and symptoms.
The family filed a civil complaint alleging the school board and gym teacher are liable for the wrongful death of Walton. According to the complaint, school officials knew Walton suffered from asthma and were required to distribute an “emergency treatment plan” to her teachers, including her physical education instructor.
According to the suit, Walton suffered an asthma attack during gym class Nov. 30, 2015. The suit alleges her gym teacher, who is not named in the complaint, twice denied her request to leave class and obtain her inhaler.
“A third time, Taylor again approached the John Doe Gym Teacher and stated that she was still having severe problems breathing and that she (was) leaving class to get her inhaler,” the suit said. “Thereafter, Taylor left the gym class. As Taylor was observed leaving the gymnasium, there were no efforts by Defendant Gym Teacher or other members of the gym staff to accompany her to her locker to help her get her inhaler or to secure her safety.”
The family’s complaint said Taylor was later found collapsed on a floor by another employee of the school.
“After placing Taylor in a wheelchair, the nursing staff obtained an oximeter and determined that Taylor’s oxygen saturation level was 79 percent and that was nearly dead,” the complaint said.
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The family’s suit said emergency technicians were called and administered epinephrine before bringing Walton to Shady Grove Hospital, where she was declared dead.
Attorneys for the Walton family and Montgomery County Public Schools declined comment on the case.
School district records obtained by the I-Team under the Freedom of Information Act show Montgomery County Public Schools has been named in at least 13 personal injury lawsuits since 2009, including the wrongful death of a high school football player in Germantown in 2009.
Attorneys for the football player’s family told the I-Team the suit was dropped approximately six months after its filing.
We are unable to determine immediately how many of the other suits have been dropped, from a review of court records.
Separate records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show a similar rate of lawsuit filings, including personal injury suits, in the neighboring D.C. Public Schools system.
The family’s lawsuit alleges Montgomery County Public Schools showed “gross negligence” in Walton’s case because it failed to promptly call 911. The suit said Taylor had suffered a prior asthma attack in the same gym teacher’s class prior to Nov. 30, 2015.
The school district has not formally responded to the lawsuit in court. A clerk’s order said the district must do so within three weeks.