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Appeals panel upholds $3.9M verdict for bicyclist hit by school bus

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A student riding his bicycle to school on Washington Street in Indianapolis was hit by a school bus and critically injured, and a jury’s $3.9 million judgment in his favor was proper, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The panel affirmed the Marion Superior jury’s award in Saral Reed and Durham School Services, Inc. v. Richard Bethel, 49A02-1301-CT-9. The jury found total damages for Bethel of $5 million, but because it determined he was 25 percent at fault, it reduced the award accordingly.

Bethel sustained numerous injuries and was hospitalized for more than two weeks after the accident, according to the record. His injuries also deprived him an opportunity to become a U.S. Marine, and witnesses including his ROTC instructor testified he would have been a good candidate.   

Saral Reed, the bus driver, and Durham School Services challenged the verdict as excessive and argued on appeal that several exhibits should not have been admitted, including contract terms with Indianapolis Public Schools in which drivers would be assessed fees for any late buses. Reed and Durham also objected to admission of contract terms requiring insurance of at least $5 million, among other things, and that the cumulative effect of improperly admitted evidence deprived them of a fair trial.

But Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III wrote for the panel that in some cases those evidence objections weren’t properly preserved, and in any event, the evidence at trial was proper to admit. “Here, the evidence at trial reveals that Bethel suffered severe injuries and pain as a result of Reed hitting him with the bus. Bethel was initially trapped under the bus until Reed moved the bus and ran over him a second time.”

“The Defendants’ challenge to the jury’s damages verdict seems to be that the jury assigned too high a value on what it would take to compensate Bethel for his injuries and pain and suffering,”  Pyle wrote. “This challenge is nothing more than a request to reweigh the evidence, which we will not do.”

 


 
 

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