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Former Student Sues Santa Maria School District Over Teacher’s Sexual Abuse

Posted by Denis Zilberberg
Filed in Sexual Assault

James McDaniel, a former student of Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, filed a lawsuit accusing the school district of negligence in hiring the teacher who was sentenced to prison in 2008 for sexually abusing him.

McDaniel seeks compensation for past, present, and future damages which include loss of earnings. He is also asking for general damages to be determined at trial and attorney fees.

Sexual assault is a despicable act that can derail your life, affecting survivors for years, for the rest of their lives. The Santa Barbara sexual assault attorneys at the Law Offices of John B. Richards are enthusiastic about helping survivors reclaim their lives.

The Long Sad History of the Case

James McDaniel filed the lawsuit in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in September. The lawsuit alleges the district failed to conduct a “basic and proper” background check on Michael Cardoza, a math teacher at Santa Maria and Pioneer Valley high schools between 1997 and 2006. He also claims the district and several unnamed employees “failed to acknowledge unsafe conditions and red flags” regarding Cardoza’s behavior.

The lawsuit alleges Cardoza had a pattern of using his role as a teacher to gain access and assault minors before he was hired at Santa Maria high school. There were multiple prior complaints and accusations in his more than two decades of working in schools and churches.

In 2006, Cardoza was charged with seven counts, including four counts of oral copulation with a minor. McDaniel’s lawsuit contends the childhood sexual assault consisted of Cardoza performing inappropriate sexual acts on minors and taking photos during the assault.

McDaniel was only 16 years old when the incidents happened, and Cardoza was arrested after McDaniel told a friend about the assault and went to the police soon after. Cardoza was sentenced to 16 years in prison and was released this summer from the California Health Care Facility. Now registered as a sex offender, he resides in Santa Maria.

McDaniel was only able to file his case because of the California Child Victims Act (AB 218) which was signed into law in 2019. Previously, this case would have been barred by a statute of limitations, but AB 218 increases “the time limit for commencing an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault.”

McDaniel is demanding a trial by jury and damages to exceed $25,000. His lawsuit lists five causes of action, including:

  • Negligence
  • Negligent hiring and retention
  • Negligent supervision
  • Sexual battery
  • Sexual harassment

When should I contact a lawyer?

Sexual assault survivors need to know their rights. These rights can lead them to regain their lives. This starts with reporting the assault. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) provides survivors with resources in reporting sexual assaults.

Survivors travel an arduous path—from initially reporting through grueling trials that force them to relive the trauma. Survivors need a safe harbor, a place they are taken seriously and feel comfortable discussing their cases.

The Santa Barbara survivors’ rights attorneys at the Law Offices of John B. Richards provide this secure atmosphere while fighting for their clients. Contact us for a free consultation of your case by clicking here or calling 805-683-2736.


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