Attorneys Prepare for Trial in Case Stemming from Gaithersburg Student’s Death in 2015

Attorneys Prepare for Trial in Case Stemming from Gaithersburg Student’s Death in 2015

Mother alleges teacher denied teen’s request to get inhaler during asthma attack

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TaylorWalton-cb0cc47f

File photo of Taylor Walton

Walton family

Attorneys are preparing for a November trial stemming from a lawsuit in which a Gaithersburg mother alleges teachers denied her daughter access to her inhaler during an asthma attack during gym class in 2015, leading to the teen’s death.

Georgia Grant-Walton’s lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools says her daughter, Taylor Walton, requested permission to leave gym class twice to get her inhaler from her locker because she was having trouble breathing, according to court documents. The teacher, Karen Philbin, allegedly denied Taylor’s request each time, court documents say.

After the second request, 14-year-old Taylor left the class at Gaithersburg High School without permission to get her inhaler. Shortly after, she was found lying unconscious on the floor outside the gym.

Gaithersburg High School’s staff administered CPR and first aid before calling an ambulance, according to court documents. Taylor was pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital about 4 miles away.

Grant-Walton is seeking more than $20 million in damages from her daughter’s death, which occurred on Nov. 30, 2015.

Attorneys for MCPS deny that staff was negligent or responsible for Taylor’s death and say Taylor was not denied access to her inhaler.

The lawsuit takes aim at the Montgomery County Board of Education, Gaithersburg High School and the gym teacher. It accuses the defendants with gross negligence, violating Taylor’s civil rights and negligence in hiring and supervising employees.

In her lawsuit, Grant-Walton says MCPS’ staff failed to provide “reasonable care” to protect her daughter from harm and teachers “falsely imprisoned” the child by denying her access to her inhaler. Additionally, she alleges the Board of Education failed to properly train staff about how to identify and treat asthma-related medical issues.

The lawsuit states that Gaithersburg High School employees were notified of Taylor’s asthma when the teen enrolled in August 2015. Taylor used her inhaler to control an October 2015 asthma attack that happened in gym class in front of Philbin, but did not require emergency intervention, according to court records.

In court documents, lawyers for MCPS say surveillance video of the gym shows Taylor only asked to leave class once, to get a drink of water, and Philbin allowed her to do so.

In total, Grant-Walton seeks $20.4 million in damages for Taylor’s death. A nine-day jury trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 12.

In a pretrial statement, attorneys for Grant-Walton and MCPS said they intend to submit more than 50 exhibits during trial, including medical records, surveillance video of the gymnasium the day of Taylor’s death, a postmortem examination report for Taylor and her student records.

Fifty-eight people are listed as potential witnesses to testify at trial, including Grant-Walton, the MCPS staff, students present during the gym class during which Taylor’s asthma attack occurred, emergency responders who responded to the scene and other medical experts.

In the pretrial statement, lawyers for MCPS indicate they intend to file a motion for summary judgment, a request for the court to rule that Grant-Walton has no case and the lawsuit should be dismissed before trial or that the jury could only rule in favor of MCPS.

That motion had not been filed as of Tuesday afternoon.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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