The attorney representing several school officials in a civil lawsuit brought over a championship football poster recently responded and asked that the suit be dismissed.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew J. Fulwider filed papers with the Chesterfield County General District Court on March 30.
The inadvertent misidentification of a student (Jayson Shurland) on a football team championship poster that was the personal property of a school employee (guidance counselor Terrie Grubb) does not give rise to a legal duty between the defendants and plaintiff, Fulwider wrote.
Defendants include L.C. Bird High School Principal Laura Hebert and Chesterfield County Public Schools officials Joseph Tylus, James Lane and James Holland.
In the suit, David Shurland requested $25,000 in damages, said it took 4 1/2 years for the school to fix the poster and claimed that he was defamed.
Fulwider notes that Shurland’s “bill of particulars” references only a single statement made by any of the defendants – an email from Hebert in which she said, “that’s what he does,” in reference to Shurland.
Hebert’s statement does not carry the required “sting” necessary for a defamation claim, Fulwider wrote. He added that although Hebert’s statement may have been unpleasant to Shurland, it cannot be defamatory because it did not hold Shurland up to scorn, ridicule, contempt or use language that was meant to make him look infamous, odious or ridiculous. Additionally, Fulwider wrote that Hebert’s statement is an expression of opinion that cannot be proven true or false.
Fulwider cited a two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries, and said that period begins when an injury, however slight, is caused. The poster was displayed in an office at the high school in 2013 and the suit was not filed until earlier this year.
Fulwider wrote that the defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity from Shurland’s negligence claim. “School officials have the discretion and authority to determine what personal effects employees can use to decorate their work areas,” he wrote. “Even assuming that defendants were negligent in how they dealt with [Shurland’s] complaints, they are entitled to immunity for such acts.”
A hearing is set for April 19 and a trial for June 21. Last week, a court clerk said the case has been assigned to a judge from another court due to a conflict of interest.