The settlement of a civil lawsuit over the use of electric shocks by a Canton school won’t do much to stem the controversy over the treatment.
Lawyers on both sides said the case helped bolster their positions.
The terms of the agreement reached in the suit against the Judge Rotenberg Center and three of its psychologists are confidential. Andre and Cheryl McCollins of Brooklyn, N.Y., filed the lawsuit. Andre McCollins, 26, had been a student at the school.
The settlement was reached midday Tuesday after a jury spent about four hours deliberating the case following a two-week trial in Norfolk Superior Court.
Ben Novotny, who represented the McCollinses, said Cheryl McCollins, Andre’s mother, is “completely satisfied” with the settlement.
“She’s being going through this process with two goals, and they have been completely met,” Novotny said.
One was to call attention to the school’s use of electric shocks in aversive therapy to control the behavior of some students. The other was to help pay for Andre McCollins’ future care, he said.
“The only thing we can sue for is monetary damages,” Novotny said.
The lawsuit contends that in 2002, Andre McCollins received 31 electric shocks over a seven-hour period while he was also restrained face down, resulting in permanent physical injuries and a reversal of his psychological well-being.
A video of the shocks being administered to the teen was shown to the 12-person jury. He pleaded with staff members not to do it and screamed in pain afterward, the video showed.
The school is believed to be the only one in the country using the method.
Michael Flammia, a lawyer for the Rotenberg Center, said medical experts who testified at the trial showed this form of treatment is safe when used appropriately.
“This treatment is necessary in some cases,” Flammia said. “There is no doubt this treatment is safe when used if needed.”
He said the school treats the students with the most difficult behavioral problems, and the shocks are used only after several approvals, including parental consent, peer and medical reviews and a judge’s order.
Flammia said the decision to seek the settlement was made by the malpractice insurer for the center and the three psychologists.
New state regulations approved last fall limit the use of skin shocks to the roughly 75 people already approved for the treatment.
The state clamped down on the center last year after its founder, Dr. Matthew Israel, was forced to step down and agreed to five years of probation for misleading a witness and destroying a videotape.
State Sen. Brian A. Joyce, D-Milton, is a longtime critic of the center.
“I hope the Judge Rotenberg Center paid dearly,” Joyce said. “But no amount could justify the years of pain and suffering they have inflicted on innocent, disabled children.”
Fred Hanson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.