More MS news articles for April 2001

Suit settled over too-hot classroom

Sunday, April 8, 2001
By Karen Maeshiro
Staff Writer

PALMDALE -- A speech pathologist who claimed she became ill after being assigned to a hot classroom without air conditioning has settled her lawsuit against the Palmdale School District.

Robin Vercruysse, who has multiple sclerosis, was hospitalized for four days in September 1998 after being exposed to excessive heat in the classroom, which had been converted from a hallway, her lawsuit said. Vercruysse said the heat exacerbated her ailment.

"The only thing I can tell you is the parties have reached a resolution," said Vercruysse's attorney, Michael Calof. "I can't tell you the terms of the resolution because it's all subject to finality."

Calof said Vercruysse is still employed by the district and is now in an air-conditioned classroom.

"The resolution of the matter includes compliance by the district in that regard," Calof said.

Attorneys for the school district declined to comment on the settlement. Superintendent Nancy Smith referred callers to Personnel Director Rick Grove, who did not return telephone calls.

Vercruysse's lawsuit, filed in 1999, claimed that the district discriminated against her based on her physical disability.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge in November denied the district's request to dismiss the lawsuit, but granted its motion to dismiss claims of breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing.

Vercruysse had been working three days a week at Summerwind School since 1997.

The district had contended that as a public entity it is immune to claims arising from the discretionary acts of its employees, and that "the assignment of plaintiff to the converted classroom is nothing more than a 'minor change in working conditions,"' the judge's ruling said.

The district also maintained that the school was experiencing a severe space crunch during the summer of 1998 and had no other alternative than to place Vercruysse in the converted hallway, the ruling said.