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School bus driver – The non-obvious defendant

Partner Justin Shapiro has recently represented a family whose minor son (JD) was ran over by a distracted motorist as he was about to board a school bus. After a arduous legal battle, the family ultimately prevailed and settled against the at-fault driver and the school district for the school bus driver’s negligence.

Like every weekday, JD reported to the designated gathering area on the corner of the intersection just before 6:00 a.m. At approximately 6:10 a.m., the school bus arrived on the opposite corner of the intersection and stopped in the middle of the road. It was pitch dark outside as there were no street lights in the area. Despite the long line of buses situated “bumper-to-bumper” ahead of the bus, the driver initiated the flashing lights and signaled the children to cross the street and board the bus. There was no designated crosswalk from the gathering area to the corner where the bus stopped. Relying on the driver’s direction, JD and the other children began to cross the street.

school-bus-TOP-300x258At that time, a motorist traveling southbound in the direction of the group of children could not see the mobile traffic devices on the school bus due to the heavy traffic and numerous school buses in the northbound lane with their headlights on. Tragically and inevitably, the vehicle crashed into the child at a high rate of speed. JD was left unconscious, laying motionless on the ground. He was airlifted to the hospital, diagnosed with severe traumatic brain injuries from which he and his family will never recover.

The at-fault motorist had limited coverage which was tendered immediately. Through litigation, Attorney Justin Shapiro determined that the bus driver was also at fault. Not only had she breached several school bus operating procedures, but also violated specific Florida laws.

Florida Statute §316.172(3), imposes upon school bus drivers the following operational requirements:

Every school bus shall stop as far to the right of the street as possible and shall display warning lights and stop signals as required by rules of the State Board of Education before discharging or loading passengers. When possible, a school bus shall not stop where the visibility is obscured for a distance of 200 feet either way from the bus.

Through his own investigation and testimonial evidence, Justin Shapiro established that the bus driver was in the incorrect lane when she initiated the flashing lights and signaled for children to cross the street without waiting for traffic in front of her to clear. The driver violated Florida Statute §316.172(3), by failing to ensure 200 feet of visibility in the direction of oncoming traffic. She also violated Florida Statute §316.172(3), by stopping in the middle lane rather than stopping as far to the right of the street as possible.

In a case with inadequate insurance coverage on the obvious at-fault motorist, Attorney Shapiro’s steadfast gathering of the facts and creative lawyering was able to secure a confidential settlement for JD and his family which was a multiple of the insurance coverage on the at-fault vehicle.

45-year history of fighting for injured and abused children

Over the last decade alone, Leesfield & Partners has handled all types of liability cases on behalf of families and minor children, from soft-tissue injuries to wrongful death cases.

Partner Thomas Scolaro has represented multiple families for the wrongful death of their baby/toddler at a child care center. In Florida, there are almost 3,000 family home daycare providers which are not required to obtain liability insurance under Florida Law. In multiple cases Leesfield & Partners has had to creatively find coverage, which is an impossible task for many other firms, especially because Florida Statutes 627.70161 provides that “a residential property insurance policy shall not provide coverage for liability for claims arising out of, or in connection with, the operation of a family day care home…”

Attorneys Adam Rose and Carlos Macias have obtained significant settlements in surgical and non-surgical cases against schools for the negligent maintenance of school grounds and also for the school’s failure to supervise children. In difficult cases with catastrophic injuries, we must seek compensation from parents whose child engaged in horseplay and injured another child.

In the recent past, Leesfield & Partners has litigated against counselors, scoutmasters, summer camps, the Boy Scouts of America, or the Archdiocese of Miami to name a few, for the sexual abuse inflicted upon young children. The tradition of fighting for the most vulnerable among us has been the spine of our firm, a tradition of bringing civil justice on behalf of emotionally, sexually and physically abused children that begun in 1976 by Founder and Managing Partner Ira H. Leesfield.

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