$11 Million Settlement + non-monetary stipulations Pierce v. Murrieta Valley Unified School District

“We are proud of the Pierce family for remaining vigilant in their quest to seek justice for Alex,” said Rahul Ravipudi. “We’re hopeful that bringing these deficiencies to light will force school districts throughout California to re-evaluate and update their safety protocols to protect our children.”

CASE SYNOPSIS

In June 2018, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi and Robert Glassman obtained an $11 million settlement for Sabrina and Rodriquez Pierce against the Murrieta Valley Unified School District following the wrongful death of their son, Alex, a 7th grade student who drowned in June 2016 while participating in a school sponsored end-of-year swim party with his classmates. The students were under the direct supervision of Murrieta Valley Unified School District staff and personnel who chaperoned the outing as well as Murrieta Valley High School student lifeguards who were “on duty” watching over the kids as they swam.

As children swam around him, 13-year-old Alex slipped under the water and to the bottom of the pool where he remained for nearly two minutes with no rescue efforts by lifeguards, school district faculty or personnel. Instead, it was Alex’s classmates who made rescue efforts to retrieve him as no other school district faculty or personnel dove into the water to assist. The on-site lifeguards did not perform CPR on Alex, which allowed precious minutes to pass before he was attended to by paramedics from the Murrieta Fire Department. Alex was taken to a nearby hospital and, due to the severity of his injuries, he was airlifted to a second hospital where he was placed on life support and in a coma for more than 30 days until he was declared brain dead during a final test by doctors.

In addition to the monetary settlement, and as a condition of the agreement with the Pierce family, MVUSD will provide CPR training to district faculty, obtain a safety check of the District’s pool facilities and provide a release of the findings on the District website, have a School Safety Plan in place as well as provide announcement on the District website, and issued a written apology to the family regarding the incident. Attorneys are also working with local legislators to draft a water safety and rescue bill to be named in Alex’s honor.

$23.5 million settlement Lee v. Pupil Transportation Cooperative

“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,” said Rahul 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.”

CASE SYNOPSIS

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 was 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 –the new law also requires bus drivers to receive training in child-safety check procedures.

$20.5 million verdict Jun v. chaffey joint union high school district

“Throughout this litigation, the School District attempted to cover up the truth of Jin’s death. They hid documents and lied about the existence of a bus stop. Although no amount of money can compensate a parent for the loss of child, in this case, thankfully, justice prevailed, the truth came out and the jury saw through the School District’s deceit,” said attorney Rahul Ravipudi.

CASE SYNOPSIS

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.

Trial Attorneys

Rahul Ravipudi, Tom Schultz, Deborah Chang

Practice Areas

Wrongful Death, Auto Accident, Government Liability

Case Articles

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

 

$10 million Verdict cisler v. Capistrano unified school district

“The slogan of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation is, ‘We may not speak but we have much to say.’ And with this verdict it is clear that young Kevin Cisler had a lot to say,” said Brian Panish. “The family is overwhelmed and honored that the jury recognized how much love they had for their son. This is a great moment in the law – the jury was able to look beyond disability and recognize the damage that the loss of any young child does to a family.”

CASE SYNOPSIS

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.

$3.75 Million Settlement Massey v. Arcadia Unified School District

CASE SYNOPSIS

In June 2018, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Candice Klein, Tom Schultz, Sarah Kim and Rahul Ravipudi obtained a $3,750,000 settlement for a young girl who suffered significant permanent disabilities and deficiencies as a result of injuries she sustained during a fall from a swing that had broken from its swing set at school.

While attending a district run after-school program at Hugo Reid Elementary School on April 25, 2014, Madeline Massey was swinging on a swing  when the S-hook connecting the swing chain to the top of the swing set disconnected. As a result, the 6-year-old girl fell from the swing and violently struck her head on the ground resulting in fractures to her skull and a traumatic brain injury.

The Arcadia Unified School District failed to provide adequate safeguards against this known dangerous condition of the swing set by failing to check and replace the S-hooks with U-bolts as well as take the swings out of commission until the S-hooks had been repaired or replaced. The District admitted liability and the case settled prior to trial.

Trial Attorneys

Candice Klein, Tom Schultz, Sarah Kim, Rahul Ravipudi

Practice Areas

Dangerous Condition of Public Property, Brain Injury, Government Liability

$3 Million Settlement Jane Doe v. Granada Hills Charter High School

CASE SYNOPSIS

In July 2018, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Rahul Ravipudi, Deborah Chang and Tom Schultz obtained a $3 million settlement for the family of a young girl who suffered a traumatic brain injury after forcibly striking her head on the concrete.

The 10-year-old student was running from the parking lot to the school to retrieve some candy bars for a fundraiser when she was “clothelined” by an undetectable steel cable, catapulted backwards, and landed with great force on her back – causing the back of her head to strike the cement.

Defense conceded Plaintiff was not negligent at the time of the incident and admitted liability and causation in this case but disagreed with Plaintiff on the nature and extent of her injuries and damages.

Trial Attorneys

Rahul Ravipudi, Deborah Chang, Tom Schultz

Practice Areas

Dangerous Condition of Public Property, Brain Injury

$2 Million Settlement Kalnins v. La Canada Unified School District

CASE SYNOPSIS

In July 2018, attorneys Rahul Ravipudi and Robert Glassman of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP obtained a $2 million settlement for Ethan Kalnins, a La Canada High School junior with Cerebral Palsy, who was severely injured in May 2016 while attending a school assembly when he fell off the side of the school  gymnasium’s telescopic bleachers, which had no guardrails. The La Canada School District knew the bleachers were in a dangerous condition but failed to do anything about it until it was too late.

Following Ethan’s fall, the 17-year-old special education student was lifted from the floor and placed into a wheelchair before being rushed by ambulance to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, California where he underwent surgery for a left femur fracture. He spent five days in the hospital before being transferred to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for continued occupational and physical therapy.

Ethan remained in a wheelchair throughout the summer, trying to regain the strength to walk again, and returned to La Canada High School in the fall of 2016 where he required the use of a one-on-one aide and attended counseling with the school’s therapist to help him cope with the anxiety of returning to school.