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Callan Swim School has settled a lawsuit alleging negligence in the hiring and continued employment of Nicholas Piazza, a former swim instructor facing criminal child sex abuse charges. Photo by Laura Place
Callan Swim School has settled a lawsuit alleging negligence in the hiring and continued employment of Nicholas Piazza, a former swim instructor facing criminal child sex abuse charges. Photo by Laura Place
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Callan Swim School settles civil suit for $40K; swim instructor trial delayed

VISTA — The jury trial for a former swim instructor charged with sexually abusing young children in North County has been delayed to September, while a separate civil case against Callan Swim School, where the instructor worked, has been settled for $40,000.

Defendant Nicholas Piazza, 20, was scheduled to go to trial on July 11 following a delay from May. At a hearing last month, attorneys agreed that delaying the trial again to Sept. 27 would allow attorneys on both sides to more thoroughly prepare, said Deputy District Attorney Isaac Jackson.

“Both sides discussed that that’s a realistic time when everyone will be ready. We want to make sure everyone has time to do a full investigation, retain experts, and then there’s the matter of court availability,” said Jackson, who is prosecuting the case.

A readiness hearing has also been scheduled for Aug. 8.

Piazza is facing charges for “lewd and lascivious conduct” with three children aged five and seven while working as a swim instructor in 2021 and 2022.

The first of these incidents occurred in 2021 while Piazza was a swim instructor at Callan Swim School in San Marcos and another in September 2022 while working as a private instructor in Rancho Santa Fe.

The third victim was also a student of Piazza’s during private lessons around the summer of 2022, Jackson confirmed.

While the San Diego County District Attorney’s office is preparing for trial, they continue negotiating with the defense.

“In any case, you always have a dual-track purpose; making sure you’re prepared to do a trial, and at the same time, you still have negotiations. Whenever new things come up or different circumstances come up, it could change negotiations. They could plead guilty at any time,” Jackson said.

Callan Swim School lawsuit

The parent of the first victim sued Callan Swim School separately last fall, alleging that the school was negligent in hiring and continuing to employ Piazza. While a trial was set for early next year, court documents confirm that the case has been settled.

A notice of conditional settlement was first filed in late April, and subsequent court filings from late May confirm that Callan Swim School paid out an out-of-pocket settlement totaling $40,000. The school has denied all claims in the suit.

A declaration filed by Booth Law attorney Hannah Nachef, who represented the victim, said the school’s insurance carrier denied any coverage, leaving the family-owned business to pay for any settlement.

Nicholas Piazza, 20, is a former swim instructor at Callan Swim School, where prosecutors allege he sexually abused several children while working at the school. Photo by Laura Place
Nicholas Piazza, 20, is a former swim instructor at Callan Swim School, where prosecutors allege he sexually abused several children while working at the school. Photo by Laura Place

The school’s policy featured an exclusion refusing coverage related to sexual misconduct, including negligent hiring, retention or supervision of employees who committed sexual misconduct, per the declaration. The insurance company also declined even to defend the case.

Nachef said in the declaration that they negotiated with the school for six weeks before they agreed on the $40,000 figure. Settling early, she said, assured the victim received the highest possible recovery without excessive litigation costs.

“Child sexual abuse cases are generally difficult to litigate, given the sensitivity of the subject matter. In this particular case, the most challenging issue was the fact that defendant’s insurance carrier completely denied coverage. We were able to overcome this issue by working with defense to come to an early resolution in which the defendant, a small business, paid out of pocket,” Nachef’s declaration stated.

Of the $40,000, the victim’s family will be paid nearly $25,000 and $15,000 will go toward attorney’s fees, settlement documents state.

Attorneys representing Callan Swim School did not respond to requests for comment regarding settlement details over the past two months.

The child, referred to as M.G. in the lawsuit, attended nearly a dozen individual and therapy sessions until early 2022 due to fear and anxiety from the abuse. However, settlement documents state the boy has since made a full recovery.