Bullying Cases

  • 26 January, 2024
  • 30 MB

On this episode of the Justice Team Podcast, Bob Simon talks with Delaney Miller, lead trial lawyer at Windsor Troy, to explore bullying cases against public school districts. Delaney, drawing on his firm’s extensive experience in personal injury and government liability cases, also shares his own commitment to the foster system, including his experience with foster children. He highlights his family’s social enterprise, Barely Canadian, where over 10% of profits support foster youth. Additionally, Delaney delves into his involvement with Foster-Preneur and other charities dedicated to empowering those transitioning out of foster care. Throughout the episode, he unpacks the complexities of filing claims against public entities, emphasizing the need to prove school knowledge and neglect while underlining the critical issues of bullying and the necessity for ongoing support for foster children.

Delaney Miller, Windsor Troy


Bob Simon (00:07):
Welcome to this episode of the Justice Team Podcast, and you can find us on the Justice Team Network. And today we are talking about bullying cases, specifically we’re going to talk about one, against one, a public school district. And we’re honored today to have here Mr. Delaney Miller, attorney that prosecutes these cases, big time trial lawyer here in Los Angeles. Hey, thanks for coming on, buddy.

Delaney Miller (00:28):
I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Bob Simon (00:30):
Delaney, just tell the listeners about, first of all, how they can find you, a little bit about your firm.

Delaney Miller (00:36):
Sure. So, I joined Windsor Troy, and we’re the civil litigation part of the Matian Law Firm. We handle personal injury and cases against school districts and other government liability cases. So, windsortroy.com.

Bob Simon (00:52):
Nice. And then how they find you specifically?

Delaney Miller (00:56):
Well, anybody who wants to contact me, you can email me directly, delaney@wtroy, anytime. And I promise I’ll get back to you real quick.

Bob Simon (01:05):
It’s E-Y at the end.

Delaney Miller (01:06):
Yes, that’s right.

Bob Simon (01:07):

Delaney Miller (01:08):
Thank you for catching that.

Bob Simon (01:09):
And I realize today, if you guys are watching this anywhere, I’m wearing this super sweet Justice Team little hoodie, and it’s like the most fine fabric ever, it feels like a cashmere blend almost.

Delaney Miller (01:18):
It’s quite nice.

Bob Simon (01:19):
Made by his wife.

Delaney Miller (01:21):
Yeah, me and my wife started a company called Barely Canadian. And so she’s originally from Canada, and I always tease her because we could be on the beach and it’s 75 and she’s chilly. So, I always say that she’s barely Canadian or when we go to a hockey game and she barely watches the match, I call her barely Canadian. So that’s how the name started. And she’s created this super soft clothing that helps support foster youth.

Bob Simon (01:46):
And that’s something that we’ve been to adoption events together. We’ve adopted. You foster adopted, and I am sure that blends into a lot why you help a lot of kids with the stuff that you do. For those of you who don’t know, Delaney, you adopted teenagers, right?

Delaney Miller (02:02):
Yeah, we were brave enough to adopt teenagers. Our daughter we adopted when she was 17, just a few months before she turned 18. She had been with us for about a year and a half at that time. And then our son has been with us for over two years now as well. They’re 19 and Julie is soon to be 21. So it’s been quite a journey.

Bob Simon (02:25):
Yeah. I mean, when we adopted our first, it was after birth and right at birth and … Man, that’s crazy. It’s just, I mean, changing lives.

Delaney Miller (02:33):
Absolutely. And not only us changing theirs, but them changing ours for sure.

Bob Simon (02:38):
Yeah. And at Barely Canadian I know that proceeds not only go towards that activism, but also a lot of the employees are foster care.

Delaney Miller (02:46):
Yeah. We give an opportunity for foster kids to come in, learn how to do the business, and sometimes they even create their own product, their own sweatshirt or whatever, and then they sell it and they get all the profits.

Bob Simon (03:01):
Wow. Yeah. I mean, this is like high-end merch for Barely Canadian. Do they still do the LA Kings stuff too?

Delaney Miller (03:06):
Yeah. In fact, we’ve expanded beyond the LA Kings. We had a really good campaign with them, there was a onesie we came out with.

Bob Simon (03:15):
I saw that.

Delaney Miller (03:15):
A sweatshirt. The onesie he was really popular. My wife loves it. But now we’re expanding to the LA Galaxy. We’ve got a project right now with the LA Lakers that’s in the works, so it’s just growing and growing.

Bob Simon (03:27):
So yeah, listeners, lawyers, you could be an entrepreneur on the side on your passion. And the Miller family helping out foster kids as a passion in the courtroom and outside.

Okay. So, let’s get into this for practical use for Justice Team podcast listeners. First of all, you’re suing a public entity for a bullying case. Walk us through what pitfalls initially that you’re looking at. Because I’m sure they don’t give you everything and any timeline stuff that we have to be cognizant of.

Delaney Miller (03:58):
Well, strangely enough, this happened, the incident that really led to our clients, his main injury happened in a gym and they said they were going to produce video of everything that had happened, so we would all be able to see it. And sure enough, they never produced that. They say they don’t have anything of it. But I came into the case expecting that the school district would at least acknowledge that bullying is something that needs to be addressed. You need to shine a light on it. You can’t allow it to be in the dark because it’ll just get worse. But they’ve had nothing but the most tone-deaf defense that I’ve ever seen. And it’s mostly been about blaming the victim.

Bob Simon (04:46):
Victim blame, victim bashing. And it always comes at the head ends. And it’s strange because growing up as a kid, those bullying incidents in school are always core memories. I still remember them and it was just stupid little stuff. But that’s stuff that sticks with you forever and it’s repetitive. So what happened to your client? How bad did it get?

Delaney Miller (05:07):
It started out with name-calling, and then it got worse and then striking him and kicking him and punching him. And it all ended up culminating in March of 2019 when he was sexually assaulted while he was in a gym class with about 250 other kids. And it was a shocking event. And he reported it right afterwards. He was taken out of school. When he returned, they actually moved him out of his own classes so that the offenders could stay in the same classes they had. And they made him feel like he was largely responsible for what had happened to him. And about two months to the day after the sexual assault, he ended up attempting suicide.

Bob Simon (05:54):
Wow. I mean, that’s a story too often told these days. And it’s crazy the school district doesn’t even acknowledge this as an issue.

Delaney Miller (06:02):
Yeah. So, their whole defense is based on, “We didn’t know. We had no notice that these specific kids were ever bullies.” And so we had to take some depositions, and so we took the depositions of these assailants. And sure enough, they had a lot of incidents that they remembered that they talked about where they had been pulled into the principal’s office or different dean’s offices. But none of it, not a single incident was documented by the school.

Bob Simon (06:29):
But then how do you get through? So is there a statute thing? I know in government entities you’ve got to file a claim form within six months. Is that the same in this situation?

Delaney Miller (06:37):
Yep, exactly the same. We complied with that. Got that taken care of, and luckily it’s not been a problem.

Bob Simon (06:42):
But do you have to do it within six months of that last incident happening, what’s the trigger?

Delaney Miller (06:48):
Yeah, six months of the incident that is the basis of the injury.

Bob Simon (06:53):
And it’s crazy because a lot of people don’t know that. And a lot of times I’m sure you found that victims don’t want to talk about it.

Delaney Miller (06:58):
Yeah. No, absolutely. It’s extremely hard for victims to talk about it. And I’ve read my own client’s deposition a few times now, and I’m just, I’m impressed by how brave he was that he was able to speak up. And it’s not easy.

Bob Simon (07:15):
So that’s just for our listeners to go through practical how-to, you’ve got to file that claim form if it’s a government entity, even if they’re a minor.

Delaney Miller (07:23):
Even if they’re a minor.

Bob Simon (07:24):
And you’ve got to have to put the monetary amount in there too because sometimes it’ll be levied on that. But then how do you go, you file the lawsuit of a public entity, they don’t give you any of these documents. They claim they don’t exist. Walk our listeners through our viewers, what you have to do to be able to prove your case? What are you going to prove and how are you going to do it?

Delaney Miller (07:43):
Well, I think in a case like this, we had to use the absence of any evidence from the school district against them. So like I said, we took the depositions of the kids that were involved, we were able to show that there were plenty of incidences that should have reasonably put the school district on notice that these kids were dangerous and that they were becoming progressively more dangerous. And we had to fill in the gaps that the school district wouldn’t give us the information for.

Bob Simon (08:10):
Wow. But do you have, I mean, I’m sure they filed motions to try to throw your case away.

Delaney Miller (08:16):
Yeah. Thursday last week was the motion for summary judgment, which was we got the tentative Wednesday. I was so excited, denied, and sure enough went forward on the hearing and it was upheld.

Bob Simon (08:29):
Wow. So then what are the, to hold a public entity, a school accountable for the actions of other kids, because if you get to the verdict forum, I’m sure they parse out the responsibility share of the kids versus the entity that could have prevented it. What do you have to prove to prove your elements against the school?

Delaney Miller (08:53):
You have to prove that they knew and they had an opportunity to protect these children and that they failed to do it in a general sense. And I think in this case, it’s very much we can prove that they had a sand in the head approach about documenting incidents of bullying, and that just emboldened the bullies until it ended up reaching this point where this event happened.

Bob Simon (09:18):
Wow. And is there any limitation on the amount of damages you can ask for?

Delaney Miller (09:23):
Well, we don’t have any punitive damages, obviously, but no limitation as far as what we’re going to be asking for at trial.

Bob Simon (09:32):
And then how does it work? How do these schools pay? Do they have private funds? Do they have public funds? Do they have insurance that covers them?

Delaney Miller (09:41):
A lot of the schools are part of self-insured groups, but some of them also have policies as well. But from what I’ve seen, and I’m newer to this area, I’ve mostly been doing traditional personal injury. But from what I’ve seen, most of them are part of self-insured groups that come together and pool their funds.

Bob Simon (10:00):
And I think a lot of lawyers don’t know that, or I feel like we because sued school districts and they’re like, “How could you take money from the school?” And it’s like, well, you don’t understand. They actually have insurance for these types of things.

Delaney Miller (10:09):
Yeah. We’re not taking books out of the hands of any of the students, or anything like that.

Bob Simon (10:15):
And it’s crazy how people weigh those things. What’s more important? The lives of the children or … I don’t know, that kind bugs me.

Delaney Miller (10:23):
Yeah. It’s been, one of the things that’s really shocking to me is their whole defense has basically been that the kids should police themselves.

Bob Simon (10:30):
No, no.

Delaney Miller (10:33):
In fact, the gym teacher that was one of the defendants said that he expected all ninth graders to keep their hands to themselves, and that’s what he-

Bob Simon (10:40):
Oh, come on, ninth graders?

Delaney Miller (10:41):
That’s what he assumed happened. So it’s amazing that … But I think you’re right, you have to take the focus away from the kids and what they did and more on the environment and how this was allowed to grow and become worse.

Bob Simon (10:55):
I mean, that’s expected behavior for 14 year olds.

Delaney Miller (10:58):

Bob Simon (10:59):
That’s what they do. I was in gym class, 14, playing … We had ultimate dodge ball. You played dodge ball, obviously?

Delaney Miller (11:07):
With those rubbery balls?

Bob Simon (11:07):

Delaney Miller (11:07):
Yeah. Oh God, yeah.

Bob Simon (11:09):
We had one where they put us in the auxiliary gym and it was seventh graders versus 12th graders, because it was seven to 12. But in this game, there was no line. You could just hit anybody anywhere.

Delaney Miller (11:18):
You could run anywhere.

Bob Simon (11:19):
Anywhere. And if you tackled someone and they dropped the ball, they were out.

Delaney Miller (11:23):
Wow. Full contact dodge ball.

Bob Simon (11:24):
I don’t understand how somebody didn’t die. But I tell you what, man, it made me a little tough. I remember at 12 years old being tackled-

Delaney Miller (11:33):
Made you quick, for sure.

Bob Simon (11:34):
… by an 18-year-old, I’ll tell you that, man. That’s getting hit by a truck. Shit. But I mean, have they taken any procedures in the future to either document better or to try to curb bullying?

Delaney Miller (11:48):
They never did anything to even hold any of the assailants accountable for this event. Even though the police did an assault exam on my client, that confirmed everything he said. I mean, he had ripped clothes from this event it was so violent. No, they just completely looked at it as if nothing happened.

Bob Simon (12:10):
That’s so unfortunate. We see a lot of these in the news. I saw one where a kid was bullied, he died, and they just, so Dave Ring’s firm just resolve that case just last week. I don’t know if you saw that one, but they got a very good result for the family. But I mean, devastating and it can be stopped so easily.

Delaney Miller (12:29):
Yeah. I mean, the nice part about our case is that our client, despite all the challenges he’s been through, having to be medicated, having to do a lot of psychiatric care, I think there’s a success story on the end of it. He’s finally starting to see where he wants to go with his life, and I hope we can help him get there.

Bob Simon (12:45):
And is he still in a school?

Delaney Miller (12:47):
He is now 19. So he’s out of school and he’s contemplating his next steps.

Bob Simon (12:52):
Wow. It’s very altruistic of, I know what you do as a human being, being a trial lawyer and also helping, being an advocate for underserved communities, children that don’t have role models, father figures and protectors. And I mean, did you find yourself gravitating towards that space, or have you always been that person?

Delaney Miller (13:17):
Well, especially with the foster stuff, my mom was in foster care for 11 years when she was a child. So, knowing that and knowing just the gap in privilege that a lot of people have, it’s always made me gravitate towards trying to help people who don’t have the privilege that a lot of us do.

Bob Simon (13:36):
And what are some charities or organizations that y’all work with? I know barely Canadian who, I love that company which you guys do. Any other charities or stuff that you work with that our listeners might be able to help?

Delaney Miller (13:48):
Yeah. One that we actually created ourselves is called Fosterpreneur. And what we are doing with Fosterpreneur is we are teaching kids who have been in the foster system, or who have aged out of the foster system, how to create businesses, even if it’s just a small business, but taking ideas and executing them. And so we did a program at UCLA last summer with some of their students where we brought foster kids onto campus and had them go through a week of staying on campus and learning about being an entrepreneur. And so that’s one of the ones that we are very closely working with. And also Echoes of Hope, which is run by Luc and Stacia Robitaille. They also help kids who are in foster care or who have transitioned out of foster care.

Bob Simon (14:37):
And I think we are in all these groups and here all the statistics and it’s, I think 80% of people in prison were in the foster system. And it just shows you the chance that these kids are never given. When they get aged out at 18, they literally just get a trash bag full of their stuff and says, “All right, off you go into the world.”

Delaney Miller (14:56):
And no kidding bout the trash bag. I mean, literally-

Bob Simon (14:57):
It’s legit.

Delaney Miller (14:58):
… a trash bag. Yeah. No, it’s 50% end up in the homeless population. Only about 3% of foster kids graduate from college.

Bob Simon (15:07):
Wow. That’s a crazy statistic. I mean, it makes sense. And if we just do that one societal solve and just pay attention to what we’re supposed to do, protect kids.

Delaney Miller (15:17):
Yeah. I mean, it should be simple.

Bob Simon (15:19):
Like the school should have done, just protect kids.

Delaney Miller (15:21):
Absolutely. Just prevent. That’s what they could have done there.

Bob Simon (15:25):
Well, thanks for coming on, Delaney Miller. Anybody reach out to him, just an advocate for everybody. I appreciate you. Always looked up to you, my friend. Thanks for coming on. Thank you for listening to this episode of The Justice Team podcast. Go to justiceteamnetwork.com for any legal need or any questions that you got about this kind of stuff. Thanks, buddy.

Delaney Miller (15:44):
Thank you.

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