In the Media:
- Michigan Lawyers Weekly: "Hard lessons After two trials and two appeals, Detroit teacher gets a $450K settlement" 03/28/2016
- Michigan Lawyers Weekly: "Teacher’s lawsuit over retaliatory firing is settled Matter was set to go before third jury trial" 03/28/2016
Description of Case:
This case was tried to a jury verdict twice! In the first trial, Beverly Garvin, Plaintiff, sought damages from Defendant Detroit Board of Education and individual Defendants Mary Anderson, Laurie Washington, Debra Williams and Rosa Jackson, after being terminated from her job for alleged retaliatory reasons. In April, 2010, the first jury returned a verdict for Beverly Garvin in the amount of $750,000, which included $490,000 in punitive damages. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, dismissed the School District as a Defendant, and ordered a retrial against the individual Defendants only.
On November 12, 2013, the second jury in the retrial returned a verdict for Beverly Garvin in the total amount of $721,400, finding liability against each of the individual four Defendants, including $52,000 in punitive damages against the head of HR for the School District, Debra Williams, who was found to have an evil motive and retaliatory intent to punish Beverly Garvin.
In 2004, Garvin, an eight-grade teacher at Arthur Fischer School in Detroit, was told by some of her students that they were being raped and/or sexually assaulted at home and in foster homes. Garvin called Child Protective Services (“CPS”), as required by law, though Jackson, the school principal, ordered Garvin not to do so.
Garvin was immediately demoted to a fourth-grade teaching position, and later taken out of a program that would have led to her being certified as a teacher, meaning that she would only be able to be a substitute teacher. Her salary was reduced from $52,000 a year to $26,000.
Garvin later learned that one of her 9-year-old students had been beaten on the school’s playgrounds and forced to perform a sex act on an older school boy.
When Garvin called CPS, she was ordered to spend all the school days in the teacher’s lounge, staring at the walls, teaching nobody. These types of rooms are euphemistically called “rubber rooms”, basically in school “jail cells” for teachers who administrators want to punish. Later, Garvin was escorted out of the school like a thief by security, suspended for five months, then transferred to another school, Murray Wright, where she won a “Teaching Excellence” award. In 13 years of teaching, Beverly Garvin had a spotless discipline record. After being punished in all of the above ways, the kangaroo court school hearing was held where the administrators found Garvin guilty of work rule violations, and recommended that she be fired. Then she was fired.
The union grieved the matter, and the arbitrator held a favor of Garvin, saying she had not violated any work rules, and awarded her two years’ back pay for violation of the “just cause” Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In trial court, plaintiff asserted losing her home, job and livelihood for calling CPS, and was retaliated against for doing so.
Defendants contended that the arbitration award, in and of itself, should have prevented Garvin from making any further type of civil rights claim.
The jury returned a verdict of $721,400, which, with interest, costs and attorney fees totals $1,097,044. The jury was asked to, and did, send a message to school administrators everywhere that juries will hold them accountable if they punish good teachers who had the courage to risk everything to protect children who can’t protect themselves!
However, Defendants again appealed the jury verdict and the Court of Appeals reversed the jury verdict and remanded the case for a new trial – a third trial! – this time because the Circuit Court allegedly did not allow Defense Counsel enough time to cross examine the Plaintiff (Defense Counsel was limited to one hour, the same one hour time limitation that Plaintiff’s Counsel had to abide by). The Court of Appeals, at oral argument, stated to Attorney Pabst, “Mr. Pabst, you didn’t do anything wrong”; and, further, asked him if, “he wanted the case remanded to the same Judge or to a different Judge”, whereupon Mr. Pabst said, “yes, I want it remanded to the same Judge who did nothing wrong in my judgment.”
In January of 2016, the Circuit Court ordered a Settlement Conference and also issued an Order requiring the City’s Emergency Manager to attend. After several hours of negotiations, the now 73-year-old Plaintiff, Beverly Garvin, settled for $450,000, thus ending an eight year legal battle.
Overview of Case:
Type of Action: 42 USC §1983 First Amendment Retaliation
Injuries Alleged: Retaliatory loss of job, career and dream of teaching young children
Name of Case: Beverly Garvin v. Detroit Public Schools, et al
Court: Wayne County Circuit Court
Case No: 08-120224-NO
Date: Case settled on 1/5/16
Tried Before: Two separate juries – one in 2010 and one in 2013. Case settled on 1/5/16, prior to the start of the third jury trial.
Name of Judge: John H. Gillis, Jr.
Name of mediator: N/A
Name of arbitrator: N/A
Highest Offer: $0 – Defendants never made an offer until 1/5/16.
Verdict: The first jury verdict in 2010 was for $750,000. The second jury verdict in 2013 was for $726,000. The case was remanded by the Court of Appeals for yet a third trial and settled for $450,000 on 1/5/16.
Settlement amount: $450,000
ADR award: $75,000 (Plaintiff accepted, Defendants rejected)
Insurance carrier: None
Attorneys for Plaintiff: Tom R. Pabst, Michael A. Kowalko, Justin Pabst, Jarrett Pabst
Attorneys for Defendants: Gad Holland, Phyllis Hurks-Hill, W. Mack Faison
Key(s) to winning: Having a courageous and decent teacher like Beverly Garvin who cares more about the sexual safety of 9-year old little girls than her own job.