A St. Louis jury delivered a split verdict in a family’s suit against a school bus company after a student was hit by a car after being dropped off at the wrong intersection.
According to the 2019 suit, fourth-grader Dylan Jackson was struck while crossing Goodfellow Boulevard after getting off the bus, suffering a broken left ankle and right ankle sprain. The driver who hit the child fled the scene and was not identified.
The suit named First Student Inc. and driver Tomika L. Richardson as defendants, alleging that the company failed to provide Richardson — who was filling in for a colleague — with a turn-by-turn route sheet instructing that Dylan be dropped off at the northwest corner of Goodfellow and Lalite Avenue.
Dylan was instead dropped off at the southeast corner, forcing him to cross the busy street to get home.
The jury determined that the southeast corner of the intersection was not unsafe, siding with both First Student and Richardson on the first of two verdict directors.
On the second instruction, though, the jury found First Student negligent for not providing its replacement driver with detailed instructions on where to drop off Dylan, awarding $1.3 million. The plaintiff had asked for an award of $2 million to $3 million at closing.
The first part of that decision “conforms with Missouri law on common carrier liability,” said Meg Fowler of HeplerBroom, who represented the bus company. But she added that “in light of the inconsistency between the two jury findings,” First Student has filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. It remained pending as of press time.
Plaintiff’s attorney Jeremy Gogel said the jury’s decision on the first count hinged on the substitute bus driver’s lack of knowledge of the correct route and the finding that the corner was not inherently dangerous.
“In the abstract, the corner itself may not be dangerous,” he said. “The concrete is in good shape, and there aren’t any holes in the road. The only danger in when a child is required to cross the main road that the corner is on.”
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$1.3 million verdict
Venue: St. Louis Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 1922-CC11968/Dec. 1, 2022
Judge: Rex Burlison
Last Pretrial Demand: $750,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $150,000
Caption: Dylan Jackson, by and through his next friend Rose Jackson v. First Student Inc. and Tomika L. Richardson
Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Jeremy Gogel, Gogel Law Firm, St. Louis; Nolan Drafahl, Drafahl Law Firm, St. Louis
Defendant’s Attorneys: Meg Fowler and Emily Roman, HeplerBroom, St. Louis
Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the amount of the pretrial demand and omitted the law firm name of plaintiffs’ attorney Nolan Drafahl. We regret the errors.