“We are proud that Mr. and Mrs. Lee have taken steps to make sure the tragedy that has befallen them will not strike another family,” saidRahul Ravipudi. “Our firm will continue to be vigilant in monitoring not just the Defendants, but all school bussing operations, in a continued effort to protect students and families from needless tragedies like the death of Paul Lee.”
In May 2017, Panish Shea & Boyle attorneys Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi and Robert Glassman obtained a landmark $23,500,000 settlement on behalf of the family of a 19-year-old non-verbal autistic student who tragically died aboard a Whittier school bus after the driver left him behind to engage in a sexual tryst with a coworker. The Plaintiffs were also represented in the case by Sang “Nathan” Yun of the Yun Law Firm.
On the morning of September 11, 2015, Hun Joon “Paul” Lee boarded a Pupil Transportation Cooperative (PTC) school bus carrying two additional special needs students and traveled to Sierra Vista Adult School in Whittier, California. The driver, Armando Ramirez, distracted by text messages from his lover, failed to ensure that Paul had exited the bus at his destination. Mr. Ramirez then returned the bus to the yard, oblivious to the fact that the nearly six-foot and over 300 pound young man was still aboard, and quickly exited to meet his lover for a sexual tryst without first performing his required child check and post-trip sweep of the bus. When Paul failed to return home from school, his mother notified the Whittier Union High School District and his lifeless body was found inside the sweltering school bus. Text messages and deposition testimony from the bus driver and his lover confirm that while the two were engaged in their affair, Paul remained trapped on the parked bus for hours, unable to escape on one of the hottest days of the year.
The death of Paul Lee has been a catalyst for significant changes in both the policies of the Whittier Union High School District (WUHSD) and California law pertaining to the safety of students traveling to and from school by bus. WUHSD has implemented protocols to call a student’s home and/or the bus company if he/she does not appear in class within 30 minutes of school starting, instituting ID cards and establishing bus monitors to track all students who enter/exit the bus, as well as requiring students to be placed on air conditioned buses if requested.
In September 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed the “Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law” requiring all school buses in the state of California to be equipped with a child safety alarm system that must be deactivated by the bus driver before departing the bus. Authored by Senator Tony Mendoza, the new law also requires bus drivers to receive training in child-safety check procedures and will go into effect beginning with the 2018-19 school year.
Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi, Robert Glassman
Wrongful Death, Government Liability
$23.5 Million Settlement Reached in School Bus Death Suit – Daily Journal
Family of Autistic Teen Who Died on School Bus Reaches $23.5M Settlement – KTLA
Panish Shea & Boyle attorneys Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi and Robert Glassman obtained a $23,500,000 settlement for the family of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old non-verbal autistic student who died after being left onboard a Whittier school bus. The driver, Armando Ramirez, was distracted by text messages from his lover and failed to ensure that Paul had exited the bus at his destination, returned to the yard where he hastily left for a sexual tryst without performing his required child check and post-trip sweep of the bus.
The settlement with Pupil Transportation Cooperative comes nearly six months after the Mr. Ramirez plead guilty to a felony charge of dependent abuse resulting in death.
Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi, Robert Glassman
On July 30, 2015, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Rahul Ravipudi, Deborah Chang, Tom Schultz and Matthew Stumpf obtained a $20,500,000 jury verdict for the mother of a high school student who was killed while walking to a bus stop in Fontana, California. The verdict followed the trial court’s finding that the Chaffey Joint Union School District hid evidence in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the tragic collision.
On December 6, 2010, 15-year old student, Jin Ouk Burnham was walking to a school bus stop that required him to cross an uncontrolled, five-lane highway in violation of state law when he was hit by a vehicle whose driver said she did not see him. He died 15 days later. During the litigation, the School District hid evidence and misrepresented facts regarding the location of the available bus stops, resulting in significant issue sanctions being ordered by the trial judge.
Despite the School District’s attempt to place blame for the accident on Jin and the driver, the San Bernardino Superior Court jury assigned 100% liability for the accident on the School District. During closing arguments, the School District’s attorney claimed that the relationship between Jin and his mother, who had finalized his adoption a year before his death, was worth only $1,500,000. “Although the school district attempted to cover up what happened, we fought for the truth and the truth prevailed.” said attorney Rahul Ravipudi.
Rahul Ravipudi, Tom Schultz, Deborah Chang
Wrongful Death, Auto Accident, Government Liability
In young boys death, jury awards $10 Million – Daily Journal (PDF)
Family awarded $10 million in death of boy – OC Register (PDF)
Jury Awards $10M To Family Of Boy Who Suffocated On Bus Ride Home From School
3-Year-Old Dies After Being Found Unresponsive On School Bus
Disabled Boy Found Unconscious on School Bus, Dies
Disabled Toddler Found Dead on School Bus
On December 7, 2012, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys obtained a $10 million jury verdict in a wrongful death case involving three-year old Kevin Cisler who was strangled to death in 2011 while on a bus ride home from preschool. The lawsuit was brought against the Capistrano Unified School District (“CUSD”) by Kevin’s parents, Melissa and Daniel Cisler, and was tried in the Orange County Superior Court. The Cislers were represented at trial by Brian Panish and Tom Schultz.
As a baby, Kevin had been diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome which left him with limited mobility and speech. Despite his special needs, Kevin was a joyful child who was beloved by his parents and extended family. Kevin’s parents wanted to ensure Kevin the best life possible so he was enrolled in a special education preschool where he could receive therapy. As part of the program, the CUSD was to provide Kevin with safe transportation to and from preschool in a school bus equipped for a child in a wheelchair, which Kevin was required to use.
Despite the CUSD ensuring Kevin’s parents that he would only be transported by experienced drivers, on March 25, 2011, CUSD employees failed to properly secure Kevin into his wheelchair. They also positioned Kevin’s wheel chair directly behind the bus driver’s seat where he could not be seen. Because the chest harness, lap belt and pummel needed to keep Kevin safely in his seat had not been properly secured, during an almost hour long bus ride, Kevin slid down in his chair until the chest harness was around his neck and obstructed his airway. The weight of his body and the position of the chest harness caused Kevin to slowly asphyxiate and, because he was positioned behind the driver, the driver failed to one notice that he was in distress. Kevin’s condition was only discovered when a parent who had boarded the bus to retrieve her own child saw Kevin slumped over in his chair.
During discovery in the case, it was learned that the driver who transported Kevin the day he died had been working as a school bus driver for only three weeks, had no prior work experience that would qualify him to drive special needs children, and that in his three weeks as a bus driver, he had only transported two other individuals in wheelchairs, neither who required safety devices to help keep them in their wheelchair seats.
Despite overwhelming evidence available early in the case, the CUSD refused to admit fault in Kevin’s death for 18-months and did not apologize for their negligence. After admitting that it’s negligence caused Kevin’s death, the CUSD took the position prior to trial that the value of Kevin’s life and the loss suffered by his parents should somehow be “discounted” because of Kevin’s developmental disability. The jury’s eight-figure verdict makes clear that they under the profound loss Kevin’s suffered as a result of his death.
Brian Panish, Tom Schultz
Wrongful Death, Government Liability