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Family of former student sues School District of La Crosse for field trip injury

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A family that is suing the School District of La Crosse after their son broke his leg while on a field trip has a trial scheduled for the summer.

John and Sara Lecher filed a lawsuit in April 2020 claiming the district and a teacher were negligent when their son was injured while on the field trip in 2018.

The family is asking to be compensated for an unspecified amount in damages from the district and its insurance company. A set of motion hearings is scheduled for next week and trial dates scheduled for June if the case is not settled before then.

A spokesperson for the district directed the Tribune to contact its lawyer Thomas Donnelly of Grady, Hayes, Neary, LLC for comment.

“This is a personal injury lawsuit, which is the subject of pending litigation. It is not fair to the parties to discuss the details of the case in the media, as it is impossible to fully present the case in such fashion,” Donnelly said in an email.

The district has filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the case and a judge has yet to rule on that motion.

According to court documents shared by the Lechers’ lawyer, the sixth grader attended a field trip on Sept. 26, 2018, with his class where they toured rock walls in the region.

The students visited the YMCA and UW-La Crosse climbing walls, where they received some training on bouldering or rock climbing. They were then scheduled to hike at Grandad Bluff, but the class instead visited a nearby former rock quarry, which the document claims a teacher did without permission.

At the former quarry site, some students received permission from the teacher to climb, the lawsuit claims. The Lechers’ son, who was 11 at the time, was among those students climbing when he slipped and fell, hitting his head and fracturing the femur of his right leg.

The legal documents said that an ambulance was called and the student required surgery to repair his leg.

Both sides have argued exactly how the accident took place, according to the lawsuit.

The Tribune has requested the school district’s motion to dismiss but did not immediately receive it Wednesday afternoon. The district’s lawyer declined to send the motion via email.

“I would prefer to simply state that our position is that the arguments in support of our motion are well-founded, and, for all the reasons stated in the documents we have filed, we believe that the school district will ultimately prevail in the lawsuit,” Donnelly said.

Tim Jacobson, the attorney for the Lechers, said in an email to the Tribune that he believes the district’s conduct leading up to the incident and in legal proceedings is “reprehensible.”

The teacher involved in the incident is still employed by the district according to its website. The Lechers have since moved and their son is no longer a student in the district.

On Jan. 19, a hearing will be held on the district’s request to dismiss the case and on the family’s request for sanctions. Another hearing will be held Jan. 20 for the plaintiff’s motion to disqualify an expert brought in by the district.

If a judge denies the district’s the request for a dismissal the case will then proceed to a trial in front of a jury beginning in June.

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