Girardi | Keese

California parents win $10 million wrongful death verdict

For most parents, the thought of losing a child numbers among their worst nightmares. One California family had this awful fear realized when their 3-year-old son died while riding a bus home from school. They recently succeeded at holding the school district accountable after a jury awarded them $10 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. While this won't bring their son back to them, hopefully it will make area school districts more aware of how important it is to ensure the safety of students who ride on school buses.

This tragedy occurred when the special-needs little boy was improperly fastened into his safety harness. The little boy suffered from a neurogenetic disorder that meant he could not speak, walk or work his body the way that other children are able to do. The boy reportedly suffocated on the bus ride home after sliding down in his wheelchair because the chest safety harness was not properly fastened.

His wheelchair typically rested directly behind the bus driver's seat and was not visible in the vehicle's safety mirrors. For that reason, once the boy slid down in his wheelchair during the long bus ride home, the chest harness basically became a vice around his neck and strangled him. The jury took only two days to reach a verdict in favor of the parents who lost their child.

The $10 million wrongful death award granted to the plaintiffs is believed to be the highest amount awarded in Orange County relating to a child's wrongful death. Hopefully this verdict will grant them some small measure of solace in the aftermath of losing their child. No California parent should have to go through such a tragedy, but at least this couple knows that the school district has been held accountable for the negligence which resulted in their child's death.

Source: Laguna Niguel - Dana Point, CA Patch, "Wrongful Death of Disabled Boy, 3, Settled," Dec. 8, 2012

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