Cohen Fischer Verdict
PA STATUTORY CAP ON DAMAGES AGAINST SCHOOL DISTRICT
APPLIED TO LIMIT $14.036 MILLION JURY VERDICT TO $500,000 IN
BUCKS COUNTY SCHOOL BUS ACCIDENT CASE – CONSTITUTIONAL ATTACK REJECTED
(DOYLESTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA – May 24, 2012) In a highly publicized case involving substantial injuries to a high school student resulting from a school bus accident, the trial court at MSZLM’s urging has applied Pennsylvania’s statutory damages cap for claims against governmental agencies to reduce a $14.036 million jury verdict to $500,000, rejecting the Plaintiff’s attacks on the constitutionality of the statute.
The case, Ashley Zauflik v. Pennsbury School District et al, was tried before a jury and the Hon. Robert Mellon, with MSZLM attorneys David Cohen, Esquire and Kristy Fischer, Esquire representing the defendant Pennsbury School District. The Plaintiff was a high school student struck by a runaway bus while waiting outside the Pennsbury High School who suffered injuries that, inter alia, resulted in the amputation of one of her legs. Claims were brought against the School District for negligence in the operation of the bus, as well as the bus manufacturer for products liability. Plaintiffs settled their claims against the bus manufacturer prior to trial. Following a 5-day trial against the School District (in which liability was admitted, but damages contested), the jury returned a verdict in the amount of $14.036 million, representing $338,580 in past medical expenses; $2,597,682 for future medical expenses and $11.1 million for past and future pain and suffering.
By way of post-trial Motions, MSZLM attorneys argued, inter alia, that the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8553(b) applies to limit total recoverable damages against the School District to a maximum of $500,000 per one accident. Plaintiffs argued that the statute was outdated and unconstitutional, violating the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, due process and other provisions. Following substantial briefing and oral argument, Judge Robert Mellon ruled that the damages cap applied, recognizing prior precedent highlighted by MSZLM which determined the statute to be properly resistant to constitutional attack, and thus molded the award to $500,000, along with a limited award of pre-judgment interest.
Plaintiffs have appealed the ruling to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which remains pending.
Edited by: SNC