April 23, 2007
SPECIAL EDUCATION LITIGATION COSTS
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked if Connecticut or any of its neighboring states impose a limit on the amount a local or regional board of education can spend to litigate a special education dispute with a parent.
Neither Connecticut nor any other state has a state law limiting the amount a local education agency can spend to litigate a special education case, according to Westlaw and other state statute database searches. It appears that limits on such expenditures by a board are imposed as a result of an analysis of the cost of the litigation versus the cost of settling the case and the strength of its case and the likelihood that it will prevail.
In addition to its own potential litigation costs, a local board faces a risk of having to pay the litigation costs for the disabled child and parent if the parent wins in court. The federal special education law gives federal courts discretion to award reasonable attorneys fees and costs to parties who prevail in special education lawsuits. But under the law, courts can only award fees and costs to a local board of education if (1) the parents; action against the board was frivolous, unreasonable or without foundation or (2) the parents' complaint or subsequent cause of action was presented for an improper purpose, such as to harass, to cause unnecessary delay, or to needlessly increase the cost of litigation (20 USC § 1415 (i) (3)).