An 11-year-old girl who was left with severe injuries and a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car while walking to her school bus in Highland has been awarded more than $36 million after her family sued the bus company.
A jury in San Bernardino reached a verdict in favor of Isabella Escamilla Sanchez on Thursday, according to the family’s law firms, Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP of Santa Monica and the Law Offices of Andy Basseri of Beverly Hills and Rancho Cucamonga.
Sanchez was 6 years old on Oct. 3, 2012, when she was struck by a Subaru Impreza as she crossed the street in the middle of the block in order to get on her school bus.
The girl was being walked to the bus stop by an adult neighbor of her grandparents who was unable to stop her from darting into the roadway, according to court records.
Her neck, pelvis, arm and leg were fractured. The traumatic brain injury she received requires her to have 24-hour nursing care for the rest of her life, the law firm said.
The $36.1 million awarded by the jury will go into a trust for her medical care.
The family sued Durham School Services for “failing to report and prevent mid-street crossings, which is a blatant violation of their own policies and procedures,” a news release from the law firms stated.
Durham School Services is a private company that receives contracts with school districts across the country to provide transportation services. It was founded in 1917 in the San Gabriel Valley, but is now a division of Illinois-based National Express LLC, according to its website.
A spokeswoman for Durham School Services declined to comment on the jury verdict.
Testimony at the five-week trial indicated parents and students regularly crossed Ninth Street in the middle of the block en route to the bus stop that served Bonnie Oehl Elementary School. Parents testified that they didn’t cross at a nearby controlled intersection because “they didn’t appreciate the danger” of crossing in the middle of the block, the law firm stated.
Bus drivers never notified the San Bernardino City Unified School District about the problem, the firm said.
A discipline process was in place to warn students and parents about dangerous practices at bus stops, and violations could escalate to students losing bus privileges, both the school district and Durham School Services indicated at trial. But that process could only be triggered if bus drivers reported problems such as the mid-block crossings, the law firm said.
The jury found that the bus company was 80 percent responsible, while Sanchez’s mother was 20 percent responsible.
The lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino Superior Court in August 2013, with Durham School Services named as a defendant about a month after the initial filing, county records show. The city of Highland, county of San Bernardino, the school and the school district were initially named as defendants, among other parties.