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John Bisnar
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Jury Awards $10.3 million In Pedestrian Death Case

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L.A. Unified School District held responsible.

The family of a six year old girl who was struck and killed by a van in her school’s parking lot two years ago was awarded $10.3 million by a Los Angeles jury, according to an Associated Press news report. The jury concluded that the Los Angeles Unified School District was primarily responsible for the accident.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jordan Sandel’s family against the school district alleged that the parking lot at Lanai Road Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley was not designed according to state-approved blueprints, the article stated. During the trial the jury heard evidence that district officials had been made aware of possibly hazardous conditions in the parking lot before the Jan. 13, 2005 fatal accident.

Michael Sandel, Jordan’s father, called the verdict an “incredible victory,” and said he planned to use the money to open a foundation to address safety issues in schools nationwide, the news report said.

Sandels further says in the article:

“The trial was the closing of that part of our life. Now starts the part of our life which is dedicated to doing things in her name.”

Jurors also found the school district 80 percent at fault for the accident and the van’s driver, Lauri Dowling, 20 percent responsible. According to court documents, Dowling, a parent, was backing the van out of a handicapped parking spot when she lost control of the vehicle and it reversed. She had lost control of her legs because of a debilitating illness. The plaintiff’s attorney argued that the parking space should have been positioned away from the sidewalk as shown on the school’s original blueprints. Instead, he said, the parking space was positioned in such a way that Dowling had to reverse toward the sidewalk where the little girl was walking with her father.

The school district’s attorney is saying that this is the largest judgment ever that has been awarded against them. The district, of course, plans to appeal the decision.

This is obviously a tragic case. What is worse that the school’s principal herself said in a deposition that parents complained to her weekly about how chaotic and dangerous the parking lot was and that she had alerted the district numerous times about it.

But as it turned out, the district did nothing about it!

This is scandalous. Not only has a little girl lost her life, but millions in taxpayer dollars have been waisted. It is money that family rightfully deserves. It won’t bring back their child, but as the father said, will help keep her memory alive and hopefully, prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

Will the negligent L.A. Unified School District employees be held accountable by the District? Will they have to pay any of the verdict themselves, personally? Will this loss of millions siimply be passed on to the tax payers, stripped out of the services for the District’s students or taken out of teacher salaries? It has to come from some place.

At Bisnar|Chase we have represented numerous families who have lost loved ones under tragic circumstances. It makes my blood boil every time. We feel strongly about holding corporations, governmental agencies and individuals accountable when they fail to carry out their duties to their fellow man.