Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oshkosh, Wisconsin: Teacher Laurie Ann Hoopman, 48, dies after being repeatedly kicked in the chest by a student

By Jennifer K. Woldt • of The Northwestern • August 17, 2010
More than three years after an Oshkosh middle school teacher died, attorneys are still arguing whether she died from injuries she received while working with an autistic student.

At stake are death benefits a state commission says the Oshkosh School district and its insurance company owe her family.

Laurie Ann Hoopman, 48, was found dead by her children March 20, 2007, days after her co-workers said they saw a student kick her in the chest.

Her family argues Hoopman died due to injuries she received when an autistic student in her Carl Traeger Middle School class kicked her in the chest multiple times in the days before her death. The Oshkosh school district and its insurer said the cause of Hoopman's death is unknown.

"We're just trying to get the truth out there," Laurie Hoopman's husband, Steve Hoopman, said Monday. "Everybody's not accepting the truth that we know is out there."

Attorneys representing the Oshkosh School District and Acuity Insurance Company, filed an appeal in Sheboygan County Circuit Court last week that seeks to reverse a state Labor and Industry Review Commission's ruling that the school district and insurance company pay Hoopman's family death benefits and funeral and burial expenses along with making a payment to the state's work injury supplemental fund.

Officials from the Oshkosh school district declined comment and others did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on this story Monday.

An administrative law judge presiding over a state Department of Workforce Development Worker's Compensation Division hearing ruled it was unclear what caused Hoopman's death and therefore benefits did not need to be paid out. On appeal, the Labor and Industry Review Commission reversed the decision and ordered the family was entitled to the benefits.

A circuit court judge will review the evidence that was presented during those hearings before making a ruling, said Terence Bouressa, the De Pere-based attorney representing Hoopman's family.

The appeal has been filed in Sheboygan County, where Acuity Insurance Company is based, but Bouressa said these types of action are usually heard in the county where the injury occurred or where the employee or employer is based. He said he is planning on filing a motion to see if the case could be moved to Winnebago County Circuit Court.

Bouressa is unsure when a decision would be made, but said it could take four to six months.

Jennifer K. Woldt: (920) 426-6676 or jwoldt@thenorthwestern.com.