Maner weeps after court upholds judgment against Fayette schools

jwarren@herald-leader.comMarch 11, 2010 

The Kentucky Supreme Court declined Wednesday to review the Carol Lynne Maner sex-abuse case, letting stand a $3.7 million judgment against the Fayette County Public Schools.

No further avenue of appeal remains available to the school district, other than taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maner, who received the news shortly after noon, said she spent much of the next hour in tears of relief.

"I haven't been able to stop crying," she said. "I didn't expect to be quite so overwhelmed. But I got the news and in about 30 seconds I started weeping, and I've been weeping off and on for the last hour. It's been almost eight years of litigation."

Chuck Arnold, one of Maner's attorneys on the case, said Wednesday's high court decision spells vindication for his client.

"What Lynne said happened to her, happened to her," Arnold said. "It's not hyperbole; it's not her trying to get rich. She suffered what she said she suffered."

Attorney Chris Miller, who also represented Maner, said he was happy for both her and the circuit court jurors who originally found in her favor.

"To have the courts validate the jury's verdict goes a long way to letting them know they did the right thing," Miller said. "When we tried the case, I asked the jurors to do the right thing and they did."

Maner filed a civil suit against the Fayette schools in 2003, alleging that she was sexually abused by various teachers and school employees while she was a student in the late 1970s and 1980s, and that the district did nothing to stop it. Maner contended that she was denied her right to an education, and said she drifted into depression and drug addiction as a result of the abuse she suffered.

Attorneys representing the school system sought to have the suit dismissed on grounds that Maner was at the age of consent when much of the abuse occurred. But a Fayette Circuit Court jury ruled in Maner's favor in 2007, awarding her $3.7 million in damages. Two former teachers who were implicated in the case later received sentences in a separate criminal action.

The Fayette schools twice appealed the civil decision — first to the state Court of Appeals and then to the state Supreme Court — losing both times.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued an order denying the school system's request for discretionary review, which means the circuit court judgment stands.

Wednesday afternoon, the Fayette schools referred questions to attorney Larry Deener, who represented the district. Deener could not be reached for comment.

Maner alleged in the lawsuit she was sexually abused by various school system employees, starting in 1976 when she was a student at Beaumont Middle School. The abuse continued at Lafayette High School and into her freshman year at the University of Kentucky, she said. Maner further alleged that when school district officials were notified of the abuse they did nothing.

Two former Beaumont Middle School teachers — Jack Russell Hubbard and Roberta Blackwell Walter — later were arrested and charged with rape and sodomy in connection with Maner's allegations.

A circuit court jury ultimately sentenced Hubbard to 61/2 years in prison on charges of raping and sodomizing Maner and another student, Thomas "Beau" Goodman III, who came forward after Maner's suit was filed.

Walter, who cooperated with prosecutors and testified against Hubbard, last month was sentenced to a week in jail and 90 days of home incarceration. Walter, now 63, originally was charged with third-degree sodomy and third-degree rape for molesting Maner and another unnamed student. Walter ultimately pleaded guilty to two amended charges of sexual misconduct.

According to documents released under an open records request, the Fayette schools' total legal expenses for the Maner case since 2003 amount to a little over $1,500.

Brenda Allen, the district's general counsel, said that amount basically represents the school systems' deductible under its policy with ACE Insurance Company of North America, which covered the schools during the time the events in Maner's case occurred.

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397 Ext. 3255.

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