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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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