A man who alleged he was molested by the founder of a popular sports camp in Seal Beach when he worked at the Westerly School in Long Beach has been awarded a $25.3 million verdict, his attorneys said Thursday.
Jurors reached the verdict Wednesday after a trial in downtown Los Angeles, finding the private K-8 school negligent for failing to act on suspected sexual abuse by Scott Durzo, who oversaw after school programs 10 years ago.
The 25-year-old plaintiff, identified in court documents only as Stephen W., was awarded $15 million in damages for future pain and suffering, $10 million for past pain and suffering and $300,000 for future medical care, according to his attorneys.
Durzo is responsible for $16.4 million and the Westerly School is responsible for $8.9 million.
In a statement, the plaintiff’s lead attorney, John Taylor of Taylor & Ring, said the Westerly School “failed to follow its duty to protect and ensure the safety of all its students.”
“The school had several opportunities to end the abuse against S.W., but the administration was ineffective in training its staff to follow the correct protocol and report inappropriate behavior,” he said. “Unfortunately, S.W. has undergone tremendous emotional stress for many years and his ability to lead a normal life was ruined by Durzo. S.W.’s doctors and family are extremely concerned for his well-being.”
The Westerly School issued a statement Thursday saying officials “were saddened to hear of these actions and continue to respect the privacy and confidentiality of our families, students, faculty and staff. It is our hope that the conclusion to this phase in the legal proceedings may begin to bring about a measure of healing for those involved.”
Durzo, 53, is awaiting trial for 20 felony counts of child molestation charges. His arrest in May 2014 shocked the community in Seal Beach, where he founded the well-known Scott Durzo’s Total Sport Camp. He has pleaded not guilty and the case is set for trial in October in Orange County Superior Court.
The lawsuit filed in April 2016 alleged sexual abuse of a minor, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The plaintiff accused Durzo of “grooming” him and giving him gifts when he was a vulnerable teenager completing home studies on the Westerly School campus in 2008 and 2009. The teen worked as an assistant for Durzo’s after school program, according to the lawsuit, and although teachers and parents began to notice Durzo was “touchy feely” with him and other children, administrators did nothing about it.
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Durzo abused the teen’s trust and molested him several times a week from fall 2008 to summer 2009, according to the lawsuit.
He was not hired back for the next school year, possibly because of complaints about him, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff told his parents about the alleged abuse in 2014 and they contacted police. Durzo was arrested after he admitted to the abuse during a secretly recorded meeting with the plaintiff, according to police.
Staff writer Kelly Puente contributed to this article.