January 24, 2017 — The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has reached a settlement of nearly $10 million with Orange Unified School District (OUSD) on behalf of families of children who were injured in the 2014 Anaheim school bus crash.
The settlement was reached on the first day the trial of Taing et al. v. Orange Unified School District was to begin. The case was consolidated from five separate lawsuits filed by the families of five children who were injured in the crash.
“Our firm is pleased to have led the effort to obtain a settlement in the 2014 Anaheim Hills OCUSD school bus crash for nearly $10 million on behalf of five young students who were seriously injured,” said Baum Hedlund trial attorney Katherine Harvey-Lee, “but we are disappointed it took over two years and the prospect of facing a jury for the school district to finally take responsibility for this tragedy.
The 2014 Anaheim School Bus Crash
On April 24, 2014, students from El Rancho Charter Middle School boarded an Orange Unified school bus operated by bus driver Gerald Douglass Rupple, II.
At approximately 3:37 p.m., Rupple lost control of the bus and drove off the travel lanes at an unreasonable rate of speed before violently colliding with fixed objects. As a direct result of the collision, a number of students sustained severe and permanent injuries, including a shattered spine, bleeding on the brain and numerous other orthopedic and traumatic injuries.
According to the lawsuits, OUSD ignored warning signs that Rupple had a condition which should have prohibited him from being behind the wheel of a school bus. The families alleged that OUSD was accountable for the accident for allowing a medically unfit driver to operate the school bus and that they failed to appropriately train and supervise their bus drivers, which would have prevented this crash.
Rupple, now 27, is currently facing felony counts for child abuse and endangerment, perjury by declaration, as well as a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury.
The perjury count stems from Rupple’s failure to disclose a medical condition when he was examined by a doctor for his commercial driver license, or when he was interviewed by school district officials to be a school bus driver. This medical condition causes him to experience dizziness, seizures and blackouts, according to prosecutors.
According to school personnel records, Rupple was hired when he was just 18 years old and had multiple prior warnings concerning his driving. Just three months prior to the April 24, 2014 Anaheim school bus crash, an Orange Unified employee reported Rupple exhibiting odd and alarming behavior. OUSD asked Rupple to submit to a drug test but did not investigate the matter further.
Rupple’s criminal trial is scheduled to begin in February.
Baum Hedlund bus accident attorneys Katherine Harvey-Lee and Nicole Maldonado represented the Singh and Larosa families in their lawsuits.
“This case shows just how important it is for school districts to be careful and thorough when vetting potential school bus drivers,” said Katherine Harvey-Lee, attorney for the Singh and Larosa families. “Orange Unified should have known that this driver had a condition that threatened the safety of school children. They were ultimately responsible for putting a very young, very dangerous and unfit driver behind the wheel.”
“Our clients suffered long lasting physical and emotional injuries as a result of this crash,” said bus attorney Nicole Maldonado. “With this settlement, we hope these families can receive the closure they need to focus on healing and restoring their lives.”
About Katherine Harvey-Lee
Katherine Harvey-Lee is a partner at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman who focuses her practice on catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases stemming from commercial vehicle crashes.
Katherine has appeared on southern California TV and radio news on many occasions to comment on truck crashes and bus accidents. She has published multiple articles and lectured on issues of automotive defects and commercial transportation, as well as litigation practice.
In 2013, Trial magazine published her article, “Put the Brakes on ‘Curbside’ Bus Abuse” in the “Danger on the Road” edition. The article discusses how poor oversight and easily manipulated licensing laws make it easy for cut-rate carriers to hide from lawsuits.
About Nicole Maldonado
Nicole Maldonado is a partner at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman who dedicates her practice to representing consumers who have been injured or lost their lives due to defective consumer products. Her work at the firm is primarily in Mass Torts and Multidistrict Litigation.
About Baum Hedlund
The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has a long history of litigating bus accident cases. Over the past 25 years, the firm has handled more than 90 bus crash cases across the United States and around the world on behalf of bus passengers, their families and pedestrians hit by buses.
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