Multiple parties found liable for failing to ensure student crossed the street safely

32M Awarded in Pedestrian Accident CaseThe San Bernardino Superior Court recently ruled on a pedestrian accident injury case involving a young child who was struck by a car while walking to the school bus. The case highlights some unusual liability issues that can arise when school policies play a role in an accident.

On the day of the accident, six-year-old Isabella Escamilla Sanchez was on her way to catch her school bus. She crossed the street in the middle of the block, as was her habit, and was hit by an oncoming Subaru. She sustained serious injuries, including fractures to her neck, arm, leg, and pelvis, as well as a traumatic brain injury that will leave her in need of 24-hour nursing care for the rest of her life.

If this were an ordinary pedestrian accident case, you might have expected the driver of the Subaru to be 100 percent liable for the victim’s injuries. However, in this case the girl’s family settled with the driver of the Subaru, Lillian Thanh Vo, for just $50,000. Why? Because in this case, driver error was not the primary cause of the accident. Instead, the family argued that the school’s failure to prevent midblock crossings caused Isabella’s accident and therefore the school should be liable for the bulk of her damages.

Isabella’s school, as well as the San Bernardino School District, had policies in place to prevent or stop midblock crossings. Bus drivers were supposed to report midblock crossings so that parents and children could be disciplined. However, Isabella’s parents and the parents of the other children who used her bus stop reported that they were never warned of the dangers of crossing the street at midblock, and routinely did so in plain view of the bus driver, who never made any reports to the school. The plaintiffs argued that since the bus driver had failed in their duty to warn parents and children about dangerous conditions, therefore the bus driver and their employer (the school) were liable for Isabella’s accident.

The school argued that they were not liable for the accident because they did not make Isabella cross the street at midblock. Instead, they suggested that the girl’s mother was liable for not teaching her daughter to cross the street safely.

After a 5-week trial, the jury found that both the school and Isabella’s mother had a role in causing the accident. Isabella’s mother was found 20 percent at fault, while the school was found 80 percent at fault. This means that the school was required to pay 80 percent of the $36 million in damages that the court awarded to Isabella Sanchez.

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