California Verdicts

Find out about the most important recent California cases, selected by VerdictSearch editors. Coverage includes Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco and San Diego counties.

Subscribe to VerdictSearch for access to all California verdictsPricing Options

Suit: Bus company failed to report dangerous actions near bus stop

Amount:

$36,143,291

Type:

Verdict-Mixed

State:

California

Venue:

San Bernardino County

Court:

Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino

Injury Type(s):

arm; arm-fracture, arm;
arm-fracture, humerus;
leg; leg-fracture (fracture, femur), leg (fracture, femur);
neck-fracture (fracture, C1), neck (fracture, C1);
neck-fracture (fracture, C2), neck (fracture, C2);
neck-fusion, cervical;
neck-fracture (fracture, C1), vertebra (fracture, C1);
neck-fracture (fracture, C2), vertebra (fracture, C2);
brain-subdural hematoma; brain-traumatic brain injury; other-plate; other-shunt; other-laceration; other-craniectomy; other-pins/rods/screws; other-hardware implanted; other-fracture, displaced;
pelvis; pelvis-fracture (fracture, pubic bone), pelvis (fracture, pubic bone);
pelvis-fracture (fracture, pubic ramus), pelvis (fracture, pubic ramus);
urological-kidney; surgeries/treatment-tracheostomy/tracheotomy; gastrointestinal/digestive-gastrointestinal complications

Case Type:

Transportation – Roadways; Motor Vehicle – Pedestrian; Worker/Workplace Negligence

Case Name:

Isabella Escamilla Sanchez, a minor, by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, Carina Sanchez; Carina Sanchez, individually; and Daniel Sanchez, individually v. County of San Bernardino, City of Highland, San Bernardino Unified School District, Bonnie Oehl Elementary School, Durham School Services, Shanita Cottia Mason, Lillian Thanh Vo, Nguyen Tran, and Does 1 to 100, inclusive,
No. CIVDS1309504

Date:

September 21, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Carina Sanchez (Female), 

Daniel Sanchez (Male), 

Isabella Escamilla Sanchez (Female, 6 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Geoffrey S. Wells;
Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP;
Santa Monica,
CA,
for
Carina Sanchez, Daniel Sanchez, Isabella Escamilla Sanchez ■ Ivan Puchalt;
Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP;
Santa Monica,
CA,
for
Carina Sanchez, Daniel Sanchez, Isabella Escamilla Sanchez

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Vera Dolan; M.S.P.H.; Life Expectancy & Mortality; Las Vegas,
NV called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ Carol Hyland; M.A.; Life Care Planning; Lafayette,
CA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ David King; P.E.; Accident Reconstruction; Laguna Hills,
CA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ Hrayr Basmajian; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Loma Linda,
CA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ Robert Berkstresser; Busing Industry; San Diego,
CA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ Warren Boling, Jr.; M.D.; Neurosurgery; Loma Linda,
CA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ Joellen Gill; M.S.; Ergonomics/Human Factors; Spokane,
WA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ Tamorah Hunt; Ph.D.; Economics; Santa Ana,
CA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt ■ Stanford Shu; M.D.; Pediatric Neurology; San Bernardino,
CA called by:
Geoffrey S. Wells, Ivan Puchalt

Defendant(s):

Nguyen Tran, 

City of Highland, 

Lillian Thanh Vo, 

Shanita Cottia Mason, 

Durham School Services, 

County of San Bernardino, 

Bonnie Oehl Elementary School, 

San Bernardino School District

Defense Attorney(s):

Robert S. Rubin;
Law Offices of Norman Nadel;
Los Angeles,
CA,
for
Shanita Cottia Mason, Durham School Services ■ John S. Lowenthal;
Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP;
San Bernardino,
CA,
for
Nguyen Tran, Lillian Thanh Vo ■ Kathleen A. Stimeling;
Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP;
San Francisco,
CA,
for
Shanita Cottia Mason, Durham School Services ■ None reported;
for
City of Highland, County of San Bernardino, Bonnie Oehl Elementary School, San Bernardino School District

Defendant Expert(s):

D. Shewmon;
Pediatric Neurology;
Sylmar,
CA called by:
Robert S. Rubin, Kathleen A. Stimeling ■ Jon Landerville;
Accident Reconstruction;
Los Angeles,
CA called by:
Robert S. Rubin, Kathleen A. Stimeling ■ Jason Engel;
Economics;
Los Angeles,
CA called by:
Robert S. Rubin, Kathleen A. Stimeling ■ Scott Kush;
Life Expectancy & Mortality;
Menlo Park,
CA called by:
Robert S. Rubin, Kathleen A. Stimeling ■ Susan Reese;
Busing Industry;
San Diego,
CA called by:
Robert S. Rubin, Kathleen A. Stimeling ■ Edward Bennett;
Life Care Planning;
Santa Barbara,
CA called by:
Robert S. Rubin, Kathleen A. Stimeling ■ Kimberly BeDell;
Pediatric Rehabilitation;
Long Beach,
CA called by:
Robert S. Rubin, Kathleen A. Stimeling

Facts:

On Oct. 3, 2012, plaintiff Isabella Sanchez, 6, a student, was being walked to her school bus stop, in Highland, by an adult neighbor of her grandparents. During the walk, the neighbor was unable to stop Isabella from darting onto Ninth Street, mid-block. Isabella was struck by a Subaru Impreza operated by Lillian Vo. Isabella sustained injuries to her head, neck, pelvis, arms and legs. Isabella’s parents, Carina Sanchez and Daniel Sanchez, acting individually and as Isabella’s guardians, sued Vo; an owner of Vo’s vehicle, Nguyen Tran; the believe maintainers of the roadway, the county of San Bernardino and the city of Highland; Isabella’s school, Bonnie Oehl Elementary School; the operator of the elementary school, the San Bernardino Unified School District; a private company that had a contract with the school districts to provide transportation services, Durham School Services; and a bus driver for Durham School Services, Shanita Mason. Several of the defendants were dismissed from the case, and that matter ultimately continued with only Isabella’s claim, through her mother, against Vo, Mason and Durham School Services. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that parents and students regularly crossed Ninth Street in the middle of the block en route to the subject bus stop that served Bonnie Oehl Elementary School. Parents testified that they did not cross at a nearby controlled intersection because it did not seem dangerous to cross in the middle of the block of Ninth Street. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that school bus drivers never notified the San Bernardino Unified School District about the problem of people crossing Ninth Street mid-block, even though there allegedly was a discipline process in place by the school district and Durham School Services to warn students and parents about dangerous practices at bus stops. According to plaintiff’s counsel, the discipline process included student violators losing bus privileges. Counsel contended that the discipline process could only be invoked if bus drivers reported problems, such as the mid-block crossings, and that, specifically, Mason failed to report and prevent mid-street crossings, which was a clear violation of the school district and the bus company’s own policies and procedures, and could have prevented the subject accident. In addition, plaintiff’s counsel argued that Vo was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Specifically, counsel argued that Vo was traveling at an unsafe speed in an area where people were known to cross the street to get to a school bus stop and that Vo failed to keep a proper look out. Vo claimed that she was driving within the speed limit and that Isabella was negligent for darting into the street. Counsel for Mason and Durham School Services also argued that Isabella was negligent for darting into the street and that Mason and Durham School Services were not to blame for the collision, as Isabella should have been better supervised.

Injury:

Isabella was ejected 70 feet into the air before she crashed back to the ground and went into cardiac arrest. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, specifically an acute subdural hematoma, and cervical fractures at the C1 and C2 levels. She also sustained a displaced fracture of the left, proximal humerus; a spiral fracture of the left, distal humerus with a medial displacement of the distal fracture fragment; a kidney laceration; fractures of the bilateral superior and right, inferior pubic rami at the pelvis; and a fracture of the left femur with medial and posterior displacement of the distal fracture fragment. Isabella was subsequently transported to a hospital, where she remained for over five months. On the date of the accident, Isabella underwent a craniectomy with evacuation of the subdural hematoma. Seven days later, on Oct. 10, 2012, she underwent surgical fusions of the occiput to C1 and of C1 to C2. During the procedure, she had a plate screwed into the bone of the skull and secured with rods and screws. Isabella also underwent an endoscopy of the upper gastrointestinal system and had a feeding tube placed. She also had a tracheostomy placed and a shunt was placed to drain the fluid from the brain into the stomach. She also underwent shunt revisions. In addition, Isabella underwent surgery, which was performed by her treating orthopedic surgeon, to treat her femur fracture. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Isabella’s future surgeries would include a cranial flap replacement surgery, scoliosis surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, another shunt revision surgery, and a heel cord lengthening, and hip abduction surgeries. The plaintiff’s treating pediatric neurosurgeon testified about Isabella’s life expectancy. It was undisputed that Isabella needs a 24-hour-a-day licensed, vocational nurse to care for her for the rest of her life.

Result:

The jury found that Vo was not negligent, but that Durham School Services and Mason were negligent. It also found that the negligence of Durham School Services and Mason were a substantial factor in causing harm to Isabella. It also found that Isabella’s mother, Ms. Sanchez, was negligent and that her negligence was a substantial factor in causing Isabella harm, but found that Isabella was not negligent. Thus, the jury apportioned no liability to Vo or Isabella, but apportioned 50 percent liability to Durham School Services, 30 percent liability to Mason, and 20 percent liability to Ms. Sanchez. The jury also determined that Isabella’s damages totaled $36,143,291. Based on the jury finding, Isabella’s non-economic damages should be reduced based on the percentage of fault of Durham School Services and Mason. However, she should recover the full amount of her future medical costs and future lost earnings, as the defendants were jointly-and-severally liable for Isabella’s economic damages. Thus, after apportionment, Isabella should recover $32,943,291 from Durham School Services and Mason.

Isabella Escamilla Sanchez: $18,960,338 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $1,182,953 Personal Injury: Future Lost Earnings Capability; $5,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $11,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering

Actual Award:

$32,943,291

Trial Information:

Judge:

John M. Pacheco

Trial Length:

5
 weeks

Trial Deliberations:

2
 days

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ and defense counsel.