$3.7 million Maner verdict upheld

aclark@herald-leader.comMay 23, 2009 

The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed Friday that the Fayette County Board of Education must award Carol Lynne Maner $3.7 million in her high-profile sex-abuse lawsuit against the district.

In 2007, a Fayette Circuit Court jury found that school officials in the late 1970s and early 1980s ignored allegations that Maner was sexually abused by four teachers, a guidance counselor and an assistant principal at Beaumont Junior High School and Lafayette High School. The jury's verdict is one of the largest awarded in Fayette County.

The school board had appealed the trial court's decision.

Maner said the appellate court's decision to uphold the 2007 verdict sends a message to school systems that "there's a problem, that this kind of thing happens, and they're not untouchable anymore."

"It feels like justice is actually unfolding, which is very uplifting," she said.

The Herald-Leader generally does not identify people who allege sexual abuse, but Maner came forward after she filed the civil lawsuit.

Larry Deener, the school board's attorney in the case, said he did not see the 53-page appeals court ruling until Friday afternoon and had not had sufficient time to review it.

"We will have to look at the opinion and discuss it with the board to see what would be appropriate for us to do at this point," Deener said.

In its appeal, the school board basically contended that the trial court had erred in failing to rule that the statute of limitations in the case had run out. But the appeals court rejected that argument.

Maner sued the district in 2003 on a civil rights claim and the Title IX Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions. She says she was essentially denied her right to an education and subsequently slid into depression and drug addiction from the alleged abuse.

"It's such an emotional relief and release to have to hold onto this for so long and then be vindicated," Maner said of Friday's ruling. "That's a big feeling."

Roberta Walter, then known as Roberta Blackwell, and Russell Hubbard are the only former teachers accused by Maner to be criminally charged. Hubbard, a former Beaumont Junior High School science teacher, has been charged with third-degree rape and four counts of first-degree sodomy. Walter, a former Beaumont art teacher, has been charged with third-degree sodomy and third-degree rape.

The appeals court also upheld a circuit court decision to reward more than $240,000 in fees to Maner's attorneys, Chris Miller and Charles Arnold of Lexington. But the court decided not to award Maner post-judgment interest.

The school board could ask the court of appeals to reconsider its decision or it could appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, Arnold said.

Arnold said the decision tells potential molesters that "you can't hide from this, and eventually you're going to get caught."

Herald-Leader writer Jim Warren contributed to this story.

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