A woman who was struck by a school bus when she was in high school and lost her left leg was awarded $14 million by a Pennsylvania jury last month. The award will likely be reduced under an unjust state law. Ashley Zauflik, 22, spent a month in a medically-induced coma and had her leg amputated after the January 2007 crash that occurred in the Philadelphia suburbs. The National Transportation Safety Board found that the driver stepped on the accelerator, not the brake, before crashing into a crowd of students during dismissal at a local high school. The driver had disputed that finding, but the School District admitted liability before trial.
The trial judge is expected to reduce the award to $500,000, the cap allowed under a 1980 Pennsylvania law that protects municipalities and school districts. The lawyer representing the Plaintiff will attempt to negotiate a higher settlement with the district and, if unsuccessful, appeal the cap to the state Supreme Court. The High Court last upheld the limit in 1986. It is obviously much too low in a serious case such as this one.
Ms. Zauflik testified that the crash left her “disfigured” and struggling with depression. She has had trouble using a prosthetic leg and relies instead on crutches or a wheelchair to ambulate. Ms. Zaufik finished high school at home and is now enrolled in an online college course. Her mother told the jury of the difficulty she had telling her daughter about the amputation when she regained consciousness.
The jury award includes $11 million for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages, and about $3 million for past and future medical expenses. The award will pay for better prosthetic devices that will allow the Plaintiff to be more active. Experts estimated her lifetime medical expenses at more than $3 million, most of it for the prosthetic devices, which must be refit periodically. The $500,000 cap applies to all awards stemming from a single incident. Seven others have sued over injuries from the crash. If the cap is upheld, Ms. Zauflik could have to share the $500,000 with any others who are successful with their claims. Tom Kline, a lawyer with the law firm of Kline & Spector, a Philadelphia firm, represents the Plaintiff and is doing a very good job. Hopefully, Tom will be able to help a most deserving client get complete justice in this case.
Source: Claims Journal
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