School District is sued in sixth grader's asthma death

Laporshia Massey died last September.
Laporshia Massey died last September.
Posted: September 05, 2014

The estate of a 12-year-old girl who died after suffering an asthma attack at a West Philadelphia elementary school - that at the time did not have a nurse on duty - has lodged a wrongful-death suit against the School District.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, seeks damages in the Sept. 25, 2013, death of Laporshia Massey. Also named as defendants were the school, its principal, and Laporshia's teacher.

According to the suit, Laporshia was attending classes at Bryant Elementary School, at 6001 Cedar Ave., when she began having difficulty breathing. She informed her teacher of the breathing problems, to which she was told to "be calm," the suit says.

The suit contends school personnel knew Laporshia suffered from asthma. It also says that she was kept in the school even as her condition worsened and despite visible distress, and that no one at the school called emergency medical services.

When Laporshia arrived home after the school day, she was taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The suit contends that she suffered respiratory failure on her way to the hospital and could not be revived.

Named as plaintiffs are Pauline Hodges and Mark W. Richardson, co-administrators of the girl's estate. The suit, filed by the Marrone Law Firm, is seeking damages in excess of $150,000.

Attorney Joseph Marrone said Hodges was Laporshia's aunt and Richardson, a lawyer, is a friend of the family. Laporshia did not have a will.

Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the School District, declined comment, saying, "It's our practice not to comment on pending litigation."

At the time of the incident, Gallard said that after the girl reported feeling ill, the school twice called her home to ask someone to pick her up. When no one had come by dismissal time, about 2:45 p.m., an aide felt sorry for the girl and drove her home.

Days after the girl's death, her father, Daniel Burch, told Philadelphia City Paper that he took her to a hospital shortly after she arrived home from school.

Burch, who is separated from the girl's mother, has not been available to Inquirer reporters since. Efforts to reach him Wednesday through the Marrone Law Firm were unsuccessful.


vclark@phillynews.com

215-854-5717

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