Jury Awards $36.1 Million To Young Girl Who Was Hit By A Car When Running To Catch Her School Bus
A San Bernardino jury awarded $36.1 million to 11-year-old Isabella Sanchez Friday, five years after she was struck by a car while running to catch her school bus. The jury determined the bus company negligent because they failed to report unsafe jaywalking patterns to the school district, therefore rendering students vulnerable to accidents when trying to catch the bus.
Sanchez was struck in 2012 and "flew 70 feet into the air," according to the L.A. Times. She was in a coma for three months following the accident and subsequently needed a wheelchair and 24-hour care. The accident led to a traumatic brain injury that has rendered her unable to speak since 2012, according to CBS. Her mother told the L.A. Times "You’re her arms, you’re her body, you’re her eyes, you’re her feelings, everything."
Geoffrey Wells, an attorney for the Sanchez family, admitted Isabella's mother was negligent, but the majority of the responsibility rested on the bus company, Durham School Services. "The school district 100 percent relies on the bus company to report and fix these unsafe conditions that were out there,” Wells said, according to CBS. The jury ended up placing 50% of the blame on Durham School Services, 30% on the bus driver, Shanita Mason, and 20% on Isabella's mother, according to the San Bernardino Sun. The driver who hit Isabella with her car was not blamed.
The L.A. Times reports jaywalking was common for that bus stop, with a traffic light and crosswalk located a few houses down from the stop. The school district relies on drivers to report patterns of unsafe crossings, but two drivers testified they hadn't noticed jaywalking at that bus stop. Isabella's mother, Carina Sanchez, told CBS that many kids in the area crossed illegally at that stop.
In response to the award, Isabella's mother said "[m]ore than anything I don’t want any other little kid to go through what I’ve been going through." She also said "me, as a mother, didn’t realize how dangerous this was," according to CBS.