SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A San Bernardino Superior Court jury in San Bernardino, California has awarded $20,500,000 to the mother of a 15-year old boy who was tragically killed after being hit by a car while crossing a highway to reach a school bus stop. The plaintiff was represented at trial by Rahul Ravipudi, Deborah Chang, Tom Schultz and Matthew Stumpf of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP. The verdict followed a contentious litigation that included a finding by the Court that the Chaffey Joint Union School District (the "School District") hid evidence in an attempt to avoid liability for the accident.
On the morning of December 6, 2010, Jin Ouk Burnham was walking toward a bus stop in the City of Fontana on a bus route established by the School District. The bus stop was the only one near Jin's home, and, to reach it, Jin had to cross Duncan Canyon, a uncontrolled five lane highway. While crossing Duncan Canyon, Jin was struck by a vehicle and suffered catastrophic injuries. He died 15 days later.
Jin's mother, who had legally adopted him one year before his death, filed a wrongful death complaint against the School District and the driver who hit and killed Jin. The complaint alleged that the School District violated California law by dangerously designating the school bus stop in a manner that required students to cross a multi-lane highway in violation of 13 California Code of Regulation §1238(b)(3). The School District denied this, claiming that there was another school bus stop that Jin could have used that would not have required him to cross Duncan Canyon.
Immediately prior to trial starting, evidence was revealed that proved that the school bus stop that the School District claimed Jin could have used was not designated until after his death and that the School District had hid this fact. The Court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the School District "secreted and hid all of the evidence which confirms that it dangerously designated bus stops in violation of 13 California Code of Regulation Section 1238 in the hopes of avoiding responsibility and liability" in the case and that this violation caused Jin Ouk Burnham's death.
At trial, the School District's attorneys argued that the driver and Jin should still be held at least partially responsible for Jin's death. The School District's attorneys also disputed the value of the loss of the relationship between Jin and his mother, arguing that the jury should award her only $1,500,000. The jury disagreed, finding the School District 100% at fault for Jin's death and awarding Jin's mother $4,500,000 in past non-economic damages and $16,000,000 in future non-economic damages.
"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.
The School District was represented at trial by Stephen Harber, Jason Weisberg, and Brian Kelly of McCune & Harber, LLP.
Panish Shea & Boyle LLP has obtained numerous other multi-million dollar jury verdicts in wrongful death cases in the last five years, including a $17,000,000 jury verdict against the Los Angeles MTA in the wrongful death of a visually impaired passenger, a $17,845,000 award in a wrongful death case involving four family members killed when a Marine jet crashed into their home, a $10,450,000 jury verdict against CBS in the death of a security guard hit by a van on the CBS studio lot, a $10,000,000 jury verdict for the parents of a three-year-old killed while riding a bus home from school, and a $7,500,000 verdict for the mother of a young woman killed by a FedEx truck while riding her bicycle.
Jong Ja Jun v. Chaffey Joint Union High School District, et al.
Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino
Case No. CIVDS1112258