In an incredible victory for sexual assault victims everywhere, a San Jose jury recently awarded a combined $102.5 million to two women sexually assaulted while students at Dartmouth Middle School, part of the Union School District. Taylor & Ring’s Natalie Weatherford represented one of the plaintiffs, known to the court as Jane Doe 2.
As originally reported in a 2019 article from the Mercury News, Samuel Neipp, a former music teacher, “charged with sexually grooming and abusing two of his female students, pleaded no contest to a dozen charges and agreed to a 56-year prison sentence” in a criminal case. Originally charged with 43 counts, he took a plea agreement to spare his victims from a difficult trial and ensures he remains in prison “until he is a very old man.”
However, a criminal conviction does little to compensate the two victims for the physical and emotional pain endured from the time Neipp’s abuse began and continued even when they graduated middle school. Among other acts of sexual abuse, Neipp sent Doe 1 and Doe 2 suggestive texts, made sexually suggestive remarks, arranged to spend time alone with them, kissed and touched them, and threatened to post nude images of Doe 1 online, leading to his arrest in 2017.
The women launched a civil suit in 2019 against the Union School District, alleging administrators did not take their allegations seriously. Mercury News, reporting on the jury’s decision, states:
Their lawsuits, which were eventually consolidated into a single trial, asserted that district officials admonished Neipp but never formally punished him for similar texts with another student, reportedly telling him in a letter that while his behavior was “inappropriate and did not show good judgment,” the matter was going to be kept confidential. He continued to receive exemplary performance reviews and was granted tenure before his arrest.
Neipp is currently serving his sentence at the California Correctional Institution in Kern County.
The civil jury reached a decision on Tuesday, March 29 and will be split between Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. Mercury News reports the $102.5 million award is one of the largest in county history. Taylor and Ring’s Natalie Weatherford told the publication:
It is an incredible outcome and the jury really recognized the lifelong harm and impact that sexual abuse has on a child, especially a middle schooler at that important developmental age. She blamed herself in ways for what happened to her. The verdict from the jury represents a conclusion that tells her this is not her fault and people failed to protect her.
The jury awards are based on both past and future damages. We are proud of the work Natalie put into this case to protect and fight for victims of sexual assault and ensure teachers like Neipp cannot hurt any more students again – and to hold school administrators responsible when they choose to look the other way.
How Taylor & Ring helps students who are sexually abused
The Los Angeles attorneys at Taylor & Ring put their experience and resources to work every day for victims of sexual assault and harassment, whether you are an adult reckoning with past abuse or a parent of a child experiencing assault at the hands of an authority figure. Just a few of our successful past cases include:
- $25.3 million verdict. A 13-year-old boy was abused almost daily by a supervisor at the Westerly School in Long Beach, California. Despite suspicions of abuse by one former employee, and incidents involving other teachers, none of this behavior is ever reported to the police.
- $14 million settlement. Two adult women sexually abused by their middle school teacher recovered the largest “per victim” settlement in the nation: $7 million each.
- $8.05 million verdict. Fourteen-year-old female student was manipulated into a sexual relationship with her eighth-grade teacher. The school district was liable for its negligent supervision of the student and the teacher.
- $8 million settlement. A 15-year-old girl was sexually abused and kidnapped by her teacher at San Gabriel Mission High School. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $8 million in a settlement award. This is the largest individual settlement agreement for a sexual abuse case in the Archdiocese’s history.
- $6.75 million settlement. Six boys sexually abused by fourth grade teacher; school principal wrote an untrue “glowing” letter of recommendation for teacher in exchange for his promise to quietly resign from his job.
- $5.6 million verdict. Teenage girl manipulated into sexual relationship with 40-year old male high school teacher; school district knew of inappropriate email messages from teacher to girl but allowed teacher to remain employed until end of school year and then wrote him a false letter of recommendation.
- $2.15 million settlement. Teenage girl manipulated into sexual relationship with male schoolteacher; school negligently hired and supervised its teacher.
At Taylor & Ring, our Los Angeles attorneys provide strong and compassionate representation to all victims and survivors of sexual assault, regardless of age or gender. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team to talk about your case – you have rights and we want to help. Call us today at 310-776-6390 or complete our contact form to schedule a confidential and free initial consultation.
David Ring is a nationally renowned plaintiff’s personal injury trial attorney and has obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of seriously-injured individuals or families who have lost a loved one in a tragic accident. For more than 20 years, he has represented victims of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, assault, molestation and sexual misconduct in cases against a variety of employers and entities, including schools, churches and youth organizations.
He prides himself on providing aggressive, yet compassionate representation for children who have been sexually abused and women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Read more about David M. Ring.