A Cincinnati-based school bus company has paid $5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri, arising out of the death of a student. A driver for First Student drove a bus over and killed the teenager. It was alleged that the bus driver, a 23-year-old, failed to defrost or scrape the bus’ windshield and then drove the bus over a 16-year-old who was legally crossing a street in St. Joseph, Mo. The student, Mason Adams, a high school junior, was killed in the November 15, 2010 incident.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Bridgett Blasi, the victim’s mother, against First Student. The company has a contract to transport Cincinnati public school students. First Student had failed to admit its role in the death until the settlement was reached. Ms. Blasi had been seeking an apology from First Student and an acknowledgment by the company of responsibility for the death.
The incident was captured by a video on the bus. It showed that the driver’s failure to defrost the windshield left him unable to see the teen lawfully crossing in front of the bus in a crosswalk with the light in his favor. The case was ready for trial, but ended when First Student agreed to pay Ms. Blasi $5 million to settle the case. First Student also agreed to apologize, admit the company’s role in the death and the company also agreed to allow Ms. Blasi to help the company’s drivers learn from this lawsuit. Michael Kuckelman, who represented Ms. Blasi in the lawsuit, stated:
First Student has agreed that the mother will have the opportunity to participate in training (drivers) to seeing a first-hand account of how people suffer from a company cutting corners.
The bus driver was convicted last year of a misdemeanor in connection with the death. First Student transports about 13,000 students daily for Cincinnati public schools as part of a $91,000, five-year contract. The school system is in the third year of that contract with First Student.
First Student’s website says it has 68,000 workers transporting 6 million students on 60,000 buses every day in the United States. The company is part of First Group America, also based in Cincinnati, and is a subsidiary of a British transportation company. First Group settled a lawsuit in March, agreeing to pay $5.9 million after it was sued by thousands of workers and job applicants who alleged the company illegally made background checks on them without the required written authorization.
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