A Los Angeles jury returned a $25.3 million verdict on behalf of S.W., a victim of sexual abuse against his former supervisor and coach, Scott Durzo, and the Westerly School in Long Beach, California. Durzo abused Plaintiff for three years prior to becoming an employee of the Westerly School, where Durzo was permitted to bring S.W., a 15-year-old home-study student, onto the Westerly campus for the school day.
Although a Westerly employee suspected a “sexual relationship” between the 43-year-old Durzo and S.W., she failed to report her suspicions to anyone despite her mandated reporting duties. When S.W. was in his early 20s, he gained the courage to finally tell his father about the abuse, who then reported it to the Seal Beach Police Department. The police immediately began an investigation, during which Durzo admitted to the abuse, he was then arrested and ultimately tried on 20 felony counts in January 2018.Attorney Natalie Weatherford
“The Westerly School failed to follow its duty to protect and ensure the safety of all its students. The school had several opportunities to end the abuse against S.W., but the administration was ineffective in training its staff to follow the correct protocol and report inappropriate behavior,” said lead counsel John C. Taylor, partner with Taylor & Ring. “Unfortunately, S.W. has undergone tremendous emotional stress for many years and his ability to lead a normal life was ruined by Durzo. S.W.’s doctors and family are extremely concerned for his well-being.”
In 2000, when S.W. was eight years old, he first met Scott Durzo while attending his summer sports camp, and continued to attend every summer without incident, getting to know and trust Durzo. Through the next several years, Durzo began to groom S.W. by paying special attention to him and acting as his mentor and friend. Eventually, Durzo’s behavior began to shift from mentor to flirtatious and sexual.
Durzo, who was in his 40s, was hired by Westerly School of Long Beach in 2008 as the director of the after-school program and as a supervisor. Durzo began to bring S.W., who was enrolled in home-study classes, with him to the school to use the school’s facilities and do his home-study work. By virtue of his position at Westerly, Durzo had unlimited access to S.W. and the abuse steadily escalated over the ensuing four years.
At the beginning of the 2008/2009 school year, a female Westerly employee suspected a “sexual relationship” between Durzo and S.W., but she did not report the suspected abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS), law enforcement or to anyone at the school. Durzo fired the employee shortly after her suspicions arose and Durzo was allowed to continue, unhindered, in his daily abuse of S.W.
The abuse ended at the conclusion of the 2008/2009 school year when S.W. stopped attending Westerly. Despite his efforts, S.W. struggled tremendously with the abuse and its aftermath, and attempted to take his life on two occasions. In 2014, when in his early twenties, he gained the courage to report the abuse to his father, who then reported it to the police and an investigation began immediately. Durzo admitted to the abuse and was arrested and ultimately tried on 20 felony counts in January 2018.
Taylor & Ring, an award-winning Los Angeles-based trial law firm, represents plaintiffs across California in high-impact personal injury, wrongful death, and sexual assault, abuse and harassment matters.