Five years after being struck by an oncoming car in Highland, California, an 11-year-old girl who has undergone extensive physical rehabilitation was awarded $36.1 million for her injuries. The plaintiff, Isabella Sanchez, was six years old when she crossed a street in Highland, California, to board her school bus and was struck by a car. The scene of the accident, 9th Street, is the site of many illegal mid-street crossings, which Durham School Services bus drivers are supposed to report.
The plaintiff’s legal team included attorneys Geoffrey Wells, Ivan Puchalt and Christian Nickerson of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP’s Santa Monica office and Andy Basseri of the Law Offices of Andy Basseri.
Isabella’s traumatic brain injury requires around-the-clock Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) care for the rest of her life. The money awarded by the jury will go into a court approved trust fund to cover the cost of Isabella’s medical care.
“This is an important victory for Isabella and the community. We hope this will lead to drivers being more vigilant about bus stop safety,” said lead plaintiff attorney Geoffrey Wells. “If Durham had followed its own policies and procedures this accident would never have happened,” added Wells.
The Sanchez family sued Durham School Services for failing to report and prevent mid-street crossings, which violates its own policies and procedures. Parents and students often cross 9th street, where Sanchez was struck by an oncoming Subaru, mid-block directly in front of the Durham bus. All the parents with children at the same bus stop testified at trial that they never used the controlled intersection near the stop because they didn’t appreciate the danger and always crossed in the middle of the block. Parents testified that they frequently crossed the street in plain view of Durham bus drivers who never took steps to prevent this behavior.
Isabella’s mother, Carina Sanchez also accepted a portion of the responsibility for the accident at trial, and her attorneys argued that Durham should also accept its own share of responsibility for allowing this conduct to occur for two months unchecked.
The jury found Durham and one of its drivers 80% at fault and Carina Sanchez 20% responsible. The jury did not find any negligence on the part of the Subaru driver. The trial lasted five weeks and the jury deliberated two days before reaching a verdict.