Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cahokia students' mothers ordered to resolve dispute in mediation

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Apr 5, 2016


Two mothers of 7th grade Cahokia students have been ordered to try resolving a dispute involving their children in mediation.

Associate Judge Randall Kelley filed the order on March 4, demanding the parties to engage in a good faith mediation within the next 60 days in an attempt to resolve this case. Attorney Gene Menges of Belleville was appointed as mediator.

He scheduled a status conference for June 2.

Jershaun Neal, by and through his mother and natural guardian Leheshia West-Neal, filed the lawsuit on Sept. 17 against Makayla Wells, JoAnn Watson, Mississippi Valley Insurance Cooperative and the Board of Education for Cahokia Unity School District No. 187.

According to the complaint, Neal and Wells were students in class together at Wirth 7th Grade Academy School in Cahokia when Wells allegedly grabbed, twisted and bent Neal’s left index finger on Oct. 7, 2014. As a result, Neal allegedly sustained a fracture and had to have surgery.

However, Watson, Wells’ mother, filed a handwritten answer to the complaint on Dec. 9, claiming the principal called and said the two children were playing and Neal stuck his finger in Wells’ face. Wells responded by grabbing his finger and twisting it.

She claims she was told that her daughter would not be punished because it was an accident, but she was called again later that day and was told Wells would be suspended for one day.

Watson alleges she never heard anything else on the matter for almost a year until she received papers in the mail.

Further, West-Neal admitted on Feb. 8 through attorney Marc Weinberg of East St. Louis that she knew her son had assaulted a fellow student prior to his enrollment at Wirth 7th Grade Academy and had been suspended for “violently assaulting another student(s).”

West-Neal names Watson a defendant in the suit for allegedly failing to supervise her daughter when she knew she had a propensity to assault or be physical with fellow students. The suit alleges Watson could have placed Wells in an alternate school or home-schooled her and could have obtained medical and psychological treatment for her daughter to ensure she wouldn’t cause harm to others.

West-Neal alleges the school district showed a conscious disregard for the safety of others as they failed to properly supervise Wells when they knew she suffered from behavioral problems and had acted violently toward other students in the past.

And she alleges Mississippi Valley Insurance failed to pay the plaintiffs medical payment coverage benefits for the medical expenses. The Neals seek damages of more than $50,000.

Mississippi Valley Insurance filed a response to the plaintiffs’ request to admit on Feb. 22 through attorney James Clayborne Jr. of Clayborne Sabo & Wagner in Belleville. The defendant admitted that it has received medical bills, but it argues that West-Neal failed to provide additional information requested by the defendant regarding medical records and bills. As a result, the defendant says it has not made any medical payments.

Mississippi Valley Insurance filed a motion to compel on March 4 through attorney James Clayborne Jr. of Clayborne, Sabo & Wagner LLP in Belleville. It asks the court to compel the plaintiffs to adequately and fully respond to the defendant’s first set of interrogatories.

Kelley scheduled a motion hearing for April 11 at 8:30 a.m. to address the motion to compel.

The Board of Education for Cahokia filed a motion for a protective order on Feb. 29 through Clayborne. The defendant argues that it has been unable to reach an agreement on the terms of the protective order with the plaintiffs, so it chose to file its own motion.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-528

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