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Milton Hershey School Releases Statement on Recent Lawsuit Dismissal

A federal court in Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Milton Hershey School and ruled that there was no factual or legal basis to support any of the claims made by attorneys representing the estate of former student Abrielle Bartels, who tragically died by suicide in 2013 while at home in the care of her family.

In dismissing the lawsuit in its entirety, the Court rejected the unsubstantiated allegations of improper care by MHS staff and, to the contrary, determined that the School fulfilled all of its duties to care for Abbie.

The Court stated: “To the extent that the Estate attempts to label Defendants’ decision as extreme and outrageous based upon their view that Defendants’ decision was a concerted effort to discriminate against Abrielle or that the Defendants’ decision was made nefariously, the Estate has failed to provide evidence demonstrating the same other than their own bald and unsupported assertions. Thus, the Estate’s claims are both factually deficient and insufficient as a matter of law…”

In reference to the care provided to Abrielle Bartels, the Court ruled: “Clearly the Defendants were presented with a student who was suffering from increasing suicidal ideations with a history of depression and suicidal tendencies. Providing that student with an opportunity to seek professional medical help could not amount to a breach of any duty incurred. Just the opposite. Had Defendants not provided Abrielle with such an opportunity, they would have unquestionably breached their in loco parentis duty.”

“The panoply leading to Abrielle’s suicide, and her death itself, as revealed through the abundant discovery that has been conducted in this case, are undeniably tragic,” the Court said in its order. “But in the end, Plaintiffs’ causes of action were undergirded by certain factual assumptions that could not be substantiated. Abrielle’s death is manifestly heartbreaking. Sadly, however, and is often the case in our system of civil justice, we find that this is simply not an actionable demise.”

“We have always maintained that the presentation of actual facts and evidence developed in this case would reveal the truth and this decision confirms what we have always known – certain factual assumptions about the case were simply not true,” said Jarad Handelman, lead counsel, Elliott Greenleaf. “We are grateful for the Court’s careful review of the facts and evidence in the case.”

Our School community remains deeply saddened by Abbie’s passing. While we are pleased to have this litigation behind us, Abbie’s death in June 2013 remains a painful memory for all of us. Our determination to fight the false allegations made by the plaintiffs’ attorneys has always been about ensuring the truth and accurate facts were presented in defending the School and its caring and professional staff. We will continue to focus on being the largest support of Pennsylvania’s most needy children and provide a safe and caring environment for them to flourish.

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Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.