THE COUNSELOR=S CORNER
Sometimes the silliest set of circumstances lead to a lawsuit. This set of circumstances took place at the Rose Parade in Pasadena in 2001. Travis Le Blanc was a baritone player for Rancho Bernardo High School. The leader of the band was one Tom Kohl. The Rancho Bernardo High School Band was ready to march, appear on television and do their thing. Mr. Kohl decided to inspect his Atroops@ and saw that Mr. Le Blanc was wearing colorful orange socks. The school=s band wears blue and white uniforms all the time and the socks were to have been white. Mr. Kohl was far from pleased and he walked to Mr. Le Blanc, shook him, and yelled AI=d like to ring your Ableeping@ neck.@ This lead Mr. Le Blanc to quit the band right after the Rose Parade. Carrie Le Blanc, Travis=s mother then intervened telling Mr. Kohl that he ought to apologize to her son and attend anger management classes. Mr. Kohl refused to do either. In fact, to this date, Mr. Kohl still works for the Poway Unified School District and has never been disciplined.
Mr. Le Blanc claims that he wore the orange socks as he had received them as a gift for Christmas. He further indicated that he had lost his white socks. The attorney for the school district believes that Mr. Le Blanc was playing a prank. Needless to say, a lawsuit followed and Mr. Le Blanc sued Mr. Kohl for battery and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury threw out the battery claim; however; found in favor of Mr. Le Blanc pertaining to the emotional distress cause of action and awarded him $25,000.00. The school district then asked the Superior Court Judge hearing the case to reverse the jury verdict and nullify the award. The judge then did so.
This is where the case stood until the Fourth District Court of Appeal got a hold of it. The Appellate Court reinstated the damages in favor of Mr. Le Blanc. The court payed close attention to Carrie Le Blanc=s testimony that her son pretty much withdrew from life for several months after this incident. Mr. Kohl claimed that he meant to do no harm to Mr. Le Blanc; however; the court did not see that way.
The Court of Appeal also reinstated Mr. Le Blanc=s claim of battery against Mr. Kohl finding that the fact that he says he didn=t intend to hurt Mr. Le Blanc is not a defense to battery. Battery is any unconsented touching. If one person were to kiss another and the kiss comes without consent, that is technically a battery. There is probably is not much in the way of damages in that type of situation; (unless you are kissed by the elephant man) however; the manner in which Mr. Le Blanc was battered does cause damages.
It turns out that Mr. Cole weighed 200 pounds and Mr. Le Blanc, who was only 14 at the time was considerably smaller.
I suspect that as the attorney for the school district has claimed, Mr. Cole was playing a prank. I think that his statement that he lost his white socks and therefore substituted them with his fancy Christmas orange socks is patently ridiculous. That being said, however; the remedy for this situation is not to shake the young man and curse at him. That would be like saying that if a man is Aprovoked@ by a woman, then it is okay to strike her. In that instance the man can always walk away no matter how unhappy he is with that which has been said to him. In this instance, Mr. Kohl could have told Mr. Le Blanc to get out of line and that he would not be marching with the band. Alternatively if he needed Mr. Le Blanc and his baritone for the Rose Parade, he could have let Mr. Le Blanc play with the band for the parade and then kick him out of the band. He could also have asked that Mr. Le Blanc be disciplined by the school. The bottom line here is that although being upset with Mr. Le Blanc=s behavior is easily understood, cursing at him and shaking him is not the right remedy.
I hope this case settles without the need for a second jury trial. This case is worth somewhere between $25,000.00 and $50,000.00 in my opinion and I think it would be in the best interests of all parties involved to put it to bed.