City of Providence Settles Federal Lawsuit Involving Death of Middle School Student

The Providence Journal reports that a settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit by the family of a middle school student who died after a classroom fight in the Providence Public Schools in 2005.  Joseline Cuc was 12-years-old when she got into a fight at the Samuel W. Bridgham Middle School and then died of cardiac arrest.

Jury selection had been scheduled for Thursday in a retrial. The family was seeking $4 million. A two-week trial before U.S. Chief District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi in July 2009 ended when the jury failed to deliver a unanimous verdict.

Neither side would disclose the terms of the settlement until the deal is finalized. According to McHugh, the family agreed to the terms “a few weeks ago,” and the City Council’s committee on claims and pending suits approved the settlement terms Monday. It also requires final approval from Mayor David N. Cicilline.

Under the settlement, Joseline’s parents, Luis DeLeon and Ana M. Cuc, agree to drop the suit against the city, said Michael W. Long, the attorney representing the family. DeLeon and Cuc could not be reached for comment.

In the suit, which was filed in 2006, the family claimed that the School Department failed to have an emergency action plan in place for Cuc even though school officials were aware that Cuc suffered from severe heart disease and that “excessive physical contact could be life threatening.” They also accused the department of attempting to cover up the circumstances surrounding her death.

On May 20, 2005, Cuc, a seventh grader, was physically restrained and ejected from class by science teacher Sey Sey Kamara after a confrontation in which Cuc grabbed another student by the collar, according to court documents. Kamara pulled the students apart and told them both to go to the principal’s office.

Cuc repeatedly tried to reenter the classroom after being ejected, but was ignored by Kamara, according to the suit. No one from the principal’s office, after being notified of her ejection from class, came to check on Cuc’s well-being, the suit states.

Fifteen minutes later, Cuc was found in the hallway next to her classroom by students as she was suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. School officials administered CPR and rescue personnel rushed her to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, where she died. The cause of death was determined to be hypertropic cardiomyopathy, an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle that can lead to sudden death.

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