If you are involved in a bus stop accident it is important to know your rights. Cities and schools operate the most buses. This means they get special protections under the law. This article walks through a case to help illustrate those protections.
The Bus Stop Accident Case
A recent Court of Appeals bus stop accident case considered whether a school district was at fault when a child who was waiting for a school bus was struck by another vehicle. The Court of Appeals decision arose from a 2008 accident. A 12-year old special needs student was waiting at his school bus stop. The child’s home fronted a busy state highway. The child’s bus stop was at the end of the roughly 20-yard driveway connecting her home to the highway. The bus would stop next to a red dumpster. The dumpster was located on the grass next to the driveway. The child’s mother said the child could not go past the red dumpster until the bus had arrived.
A day before, the school district re-routed the buses. They assigned a new bus to the child. The new bus picked him up and dropped him off at the same bus stop. On the day of the accident, the defendants simply forgot to pick up the child. The monitor saw the child standing near the red dumpster as the bus passed.
Alerted by the monitor to the missed stop, the bus driver traveled 250 feet. The driver went to a vacant gas station on the corner where the highway intersected with another road. The bus pulled out onto the other side of the highway behind another vehicle. Shortly after the bus re-entered the highway, both the bus driver and the monitor saw debris in front of the vehicle in front of it. That vehicle then pulled to the side of the road, and saw the child, obviously injured on the highway.
The Bus Stop Accident Lawsuit
The child’s mother alleged that the child told her that he went out into the road because the bus “forgot her and then they stopped and she looked both ways and she ran” after the bus. The child also testified about the bus stop accident at a 50-h hearing and a deposition. At both she fairly consistently testified that she saw the bus go by and turn around. She said that she looked both ways before crossing the road.
The child’s mother initiated a lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle that struck her child and the school district. The school district moved for summary judgment. They argued that they owed no duty to a student not within its physical care or custody. They also argued that its purported negligence was not a cause of the child’s injuries.
The lower court denied the school districts’ motion saying that the child’s status as a special needs child justified an expansion of the school district’s duty. The school district appealed and the Appellate Division concluded that the school district owed the child a duty. They also ruled that a question of fact existed as to whether the school district’s alleged negligence caused the accident. The Appellate Division agreed with the school district, however, that lower court should have granted it summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim, as amplified by the bill of particulars, of negligence based on purported violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.
The Court of Appeals held that the child was never within the school district’s physical custody, “or any time- and space-limited area of implied custody and control that may arise once a bus stops and passengers begin to board. Thus, her injuries did not occur during the act of busing itself, broadly construed.” Here, though, neither the bus driver nor the monitor waved at or signaled the child as the bus missed her designated bus stop after turning around. In fact, they did not even see her before the bus stop accident.
Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that the school district’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and cross-claims against it should have been granted. Cases like these aren’t easy to solve so it’s important to contact a reputable attorney as soon an an accident occurs.