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Judgment in Bouris/Coughlin lawsuit favors defendants

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The $7 million lawsuit brought by two dismissed Ottoson employees was settled Tuesday, Dec. 10, in U.S. District Court in Boston with a judgment favoring the defendants.

Counts brought in 2010 by former Principal Stavroula Bouris and former teacher Charles E. Coughlin Jr. against former Superintendent Nathan Levenson, School Committee member Jeff Thielman and systems technician Tracy Buck were dismissed, according to court records.

In a joint news release Dec. 10, Kathleen Bodie, superintendent of schools, and Town Manager Adam W. Chapdelaine wrote:

"The Town of Arlington/ Arlington Public School System is pleased to report that as a result of a negotiated settlement the ongoing lawsuit brought by Charles Coughlin and Stavroula Bouris has been concluded with judgment entering in favor of all Arlington defendants. 

"A settlement payment in the amount of $250,000 will be delivered to the plaintiffs. This payment is a fraction of the $7 million sought by the plaintiffs and less than the amount the defendants’ lawyers have estimated would be required to defend this case moving forward to a final resolution. 

"More importantly, this settlement avoids what would likely have been years of appeals regardless of the outcome of the trial and resolves not only this lawsuit but all ongoing litigation involving Mr. Coughlin and Ms. Bouris.  As a result, the Town and all parties involved will be able to move forward."

A joint statement by the attorneys involved on all sides is expected Wednesday.

The federal trial in which a fired Ottoson principal and teacher sought $7 million began in U.S. District Court in Boston on Monday, Dec. 2, after a number of delays in a case that dates to 2007.

One impetus for the lawsuit dates to July of that year, when YourArlington published a report that then-Principal Bouris and Coughlin were under investigation for "potential inappropriate conduct" involving a series of emails written on the schools' computer system. Bouris and Coughlin were fired the next month, and a systems technician was cleared. The suit was filed Feb. 8, 2010.

The trial was expected take from two to three weeks, but was cut short after Coughlin spent the previous day on the witness stand. Senior Judge Mark L. Wolf heard the case.

In October 2009, an arbitrator ruled in favor of Coughlin, but the nex year a Superior Court Judge overturned the ruling.

The Boston Globe reported Dec. 11 that the ruling had an impact on a subsequent hearing about Bouris’s position as principal of Ottoson Middle School, and she was not reinstated, said Frank Mondano, the lawyer for the plaintiffs. Mondano has never responded to a request for comment from YourArlington.

The order signed Dec. 10 by Robert Farrell, clerk of court says that a judgment in favor of defendants on all of the following counts not previously dismissed:

Coughlin v. Levenson

• Count IX - § 1983 - Protection of Reputation

• Count XVII - Invasion of Privacy, M.G.L. ch. 214 § 1B

• Count XXIII - Defamation

• Count XXIX - Interference with Advantageous Business Relations

• Count XXXV - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Bouris v. Levenson

• Count X - § 1983 - Protection of Reputation

• Count XV - MA Civil Rights Act, M.G.L. ch. 12 § 11

• Count XVIII - Invasion of Privacy, M.G.L. ch. 214 § 1B

• Count XXIV - Defamation

• Count XXX - Interference with Advantageous Business Relations

• Count XXXVI - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Coughlin v. Thielman

• Count XIX - Invasion of Privacy, M.G.L. ch. 214 § 1B

• Count XXV - Defamation

• Count XXXVII - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Bouris v. Thielman

• Count XX - Invasion of Privacy, M.G.L. ch. 214 § 1B

• Count XXVI - Defamation

• Count XXXVIII - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Coughlin v. Buck

• Count XXI - Invasion of Privacy, M.G.L. ch. 214 § 1B

• Count XXVII - Defamation

• Count XXXIII - Interference with Advantageous Business Relations

• Count XXXIX - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Bouris v. Buck

• Count XXII - Invasion of Privacy, M.G.L. ch. 214 § 1B

• Count XXVIII - Defamation

• Count XXXIV - Interference with Advantageous Business Relations

• Count XL - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Trial notes

Court records filed in the trial provide the following daily notes:

Friday, Dec. 6, 2013: Court addresses parties regarding procedural issues. Jury assembled. [Former School Committee member] Denise Burns retakes the stand still under oath. Exhibit 37 admitted. Redirect by Mondano. Recross by [Levenson attorney Barry] Klickstein. Witness excused.

[Former School Committee member] Joseph Curran takes the stand and is sworn. Direct examination by Mondano. Cross-examination by Klickstein. Redirect by Mondano.

[Former School Committee member and current state representative] Sean Garballey takes the stand and is sworn. Direct examination by Mondano. Cross-examination by Klickstein Cross-examination by Lavoie.

Coughlin takes the stand and is sworn. Direct by Mondano. Exhibit 57 admitted.

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013: Court addresses parties regarding procedural issues. Jury assembled.

[Former Thompson Principal] Michael McCabe takes the stand and is sworn. Direct by Mondano. Cross-examination by Klickstein. Redirect by Mondano.

Burns takes the stand and is sworn. Direct examination by Mondano. Exhibit 14, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 admitted. Cross-examination by Klickstein. Cross-examination by Lavoie.

Wednesday, Dec. 04, 2013: Court addresses parties regarding procedural issues. Jury assembled. [Former School Committee member Martin] Thrope back on the stand and is reminded still under oath. Direct examination by Mondano. Exhibit C marked. Exhibits 39, 40, 41, 25, 27, 42, 28, 29, 43, 44 admitted.

Cross-examination by Klickstein. Cross-examination by Mr. Lavoie. Witness excused. [Former Ottoson teacher] Lawrence Greco takes the stand and is sworn. Direct examination by Mondano. Exhibit 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50. Cross-examination by Klickstein. Cross-examination by [Thielman attorney Mark Lavoie. Redirect by Mondano.

[Former School Superintendent] Kathleen Donovan takes the stand and is sworn. Direct by Mondano. Witness excused. Jury excused. Court is in recess.

Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013: Court hears from parties. Jury is assembled. Court preliminarily instructs the jury. Opening by Mondano. Opening by Klickstein. Opening by Lavoie. Opening by [Buck attorney Cheryl] Waterhouse. Thrope takes the stand and is sworn. Direct examination by Mondano.

Monday, Dec. 2, 2013: Jury selection held. Jury empaneled. Jury excused. Court hears parties on trial issues. Court is in recess.

The deadline for a transcript of the trial is set for Jan. 14, 2014. Release of Transcript Restriction set for March 10, 2014.


This story was first published at 2:48 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, and updated the next day.

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