A San Bernardino jury awarded an 11-year old $36.1 million dollars for injuries sustained after being struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross the street to catch a school bus. The family of plaintiff, Isabella Escamilla Sanchez, sued the school bus company, Durham School Services (“Durham”), alleging that it should be held responsible for its employees failing to prevent mid-street crossings in violation of company policies. Although the bus driver was not directly involved in the accident, the jury found Durham eighty percent (80%) at fault and the plaintiff’s mother, Carina Sanchez, twenty percent (20%) at fault.
The accident occurred on October 3, 2012 when plaintiff, who was six-years-old at the time, was crossing 9th Street mid-block to get to a bus stop en route to her elementary school. Plaintiff was struck by a Subaru Impreza, causing her severe injuries including: traumatic brain injury and fractures to her neck, arm, leg and pelvis. Nearly five years later, a San Bernardino jury agreed with plaintiff’s argument that Durham was culpable for the accident.
The issue of whether Durham breached a duty owed to plaintiff was established by key testimony from both sides. The San Bernardino School District transportation director stated that the district relies on its bus drivers to be the “eyes and ears from the school district,” and to ensure that dangerous conditions are reported. Further, witnesses for both sides testified that a regulatory scheme existed to discipline students and parents who engaged in dangerous behavior in route to bus pick up locations. That scheme; however, relied upon initial action from the Durham bus driver to report any dangerous behavior.
According to testimony, the bus drivers never notified the district of mid-block crossing violations. This testimony was further compounded by testimony from other parents who stated that it was common practice for students and parents to cross at the mid-block directly in front of the school bus pick up zone instead of walking to a designated cross walk. Further, some parents even testified that they crossed mid-block in full view of the Durham bus drivers, who never took steps to prevent this behavior.
Plaintiff’s mother, Carina Sanchez, had purportedly permitted her daughter to cross mid-intersection for two-months prior to the incident. Accordingly, the jury found her to be twenty percent (20%) responsible.
Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury and fractures to her neck, arms and legs as a result of the incident, and shall now require 24-hour care from a Licensed Vocational Nurse. Her condition is expected to persist for the rest of her life.
Plaintiff was represented by attorneys Geoffrey Wells, Ivan Puchalt and Christian Nickerson from a firm in Santa Monica called Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP. Plaintiff was further represented by Andy Basseri of the Law Offices of Andy Basseri located in Beverly Hills.