$23.5 Million Awarded to Family of Autistic Teen Who Died in Hot Bus
The family of an autistic teenager from Whittier who died when he was left in a sweltering school bus for hours in 2015 has been awarded $23.5 million in a settlement with the bus company whose employee has been convicted in connection with the teen’s death. The parents of 19-year-old Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, who was a student at Sierra Vista Adult School, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in December 2015 after their son was left unattended on a bus for seven hours on a day when temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees. The family was represented by Los Angeles personal injury law firm, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP.
Bus Driver and Company Negligent
The teen was found unconscious and lying on the floor of the bus. He died at the scene. The bus driver, Armando Abel Ramirez, pleaded guilty to one count of dependent adult abuse, and was sentenced to two years in state prison. A police report on the incident talks about a series of sexually explicit messages Ramirez sent to another bus driver the morning when Lee was left behind on the bus. Attorneys alleged that Ramirez was distracted by the texts and planned to meet up with the other driver when he was done with his shift.
The female driver told police she felt guilty that Lee was dying when she and Ramirez were having sex. The bus company changed its policy on employee relationships after Lee’s death. The teen’s death also led to a new state law mandating new procedures for school bus safety. The law requires school buses to have a child safety alarm system to alert bus drivers about any children still remaining in the bus. This law will go into effect at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
A Tragedy That Should Never Recur
Our hearts go out to the parents of this young man who will never fully recover from the loss of their son. However, we hope they find some comfort in the fact that the bus driver and the bus company responsible for their son’s death have been held accountable. In addition, by speaking up, they have brought up positive change in California law, which will hopefully ensure that this never happens again.