Scott Durzo (above) was charged with 20 felony counts connected to a sexual relationship that he had with a teenage boy before being arrested in 2014. Photo: Seal Beach Police Department
A settlement has been reached in a sexual abuse lawsuit against a private Long Beach school and a former school staffer who was alleged to have abused a teenage boy for years before being reported to the authorities.
Taylor & Ring, the firm that represented the victim identified as Stephen W., announced it had secured a $25.5 million verdict in the suit it filed in April 2016 against Westerly and a former coach, Scott Durzo.
Durzo was hired by Westerly in 2008 when he was in his mid-40s as a director of an after school program and supervisor at the school. Durzo had known Stephen W. since he enrolled in a sports camp run by Durzo in Seal Beach in 2000. When Durzo was hired at Westerly he received permission to bring W., who was enrolled in home studies classes, on campus to complete that coursework.
The complaint alleged that because of Durzo’s position and access to W. during this time, the abuse, which had begun before Durzo had brought W. on campus, steadily escalated. It stated that around this time a female employee at Westerly suspected a sexual relationship between Durzo and the then 15-year-old victim but failed to report it to child protective services, law enforcement or anyone at the school. Durzo later fired the female employee.
The victim stopped attending Westerly after the end of the 2008-2009 school year and reported the abuse to his father in 2014, who then reported it to the police. Durzo was arrested May 7 2014 by the Seal Beach Police Department, admitted the abuse, and was charged with 20 felony counts including sodomy, displaying pornography to a minor with a sentencing enhancement for “substantial sexual conduct with a minor.”
How many times the victim was abused were “too numerous to count” but the abuse averaged “several times per week.” Of the $25.5 million verdict, Westerly is liable for 35 percent of the damages which were broken down into $300,000 for future medical expenses, $10 million for past damages and $15 million for future damages.
Westerly’s share sits at just under $9 million. Patrick Brown, the Head of School at Westerly, said the school was saddened to hear of Durzo’s actions, but did not state whether the school will exercise it’s right to appeal the verdict or how paying out such a penalty will impact the school’s financial well being.
“We were saddened to hear of these actions and continue to respect the privacy and confidentiality of our families, students, faculty and staff,” Brown said in an email Thursday evening. “It is our hope that the conclusion to this phase in the legal proceedings may begin to bring about a measure of healing for those involved.”
John Taylor, an attorney who worked on the case, said that he feels that the jury worked very hard to get this verdict right.
“It’s satisfying for the client, the client’s very happy that the jury understood that had the school done its job in terms of realizing its responsibility to keep the kids safe the abuse would’ve been cut off sooner,” Taylor said. “There were so many red flags that were there.”
[Editors note: A previous version of this article has been updated to include a comment from Patrick Brown, Head of School at Westerly.]
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