School districts across Florida – and the country – are responsible for ensuring the safe transportation of millions of students to and from class each day. In so doing, these districts, contractors and employers assume a duty of care to students to take reasonable measures to protect the safety and well-being of these minors. In some cases, that involves not just the transportation that occurs to and from school, but also for the planning and protections in place at designated bus stops and while children board or disembark from buses.
Recently, an appellate court in Florida decided in Davis v. Baez that an injured student may proceed with her lawsuit against a school bus driver. The driver reportedly insisted student and her brother cross a busy, dark road before school to be waiting on the opposite side of the street – where the bus stop was located – when he arrived. He informed the students if they weren’t waiting at the stop on the east side of the street when he got there, he would leave without them. There were several problems with this, the first being that such protocol was against school policy, which dictated that students who needed to cross a busy street to get to their stop should wait for the bus, so the driver could activate the flashing lights and “STOP” arm and allow children to more safely cross. The driver, who worked for a transportation company contracted by the school district, conceded he had given the children this instruction, despite knowing it was against district policy.
As it turned out, this was district policy for good reason. One morning as the 18-year-old high school senior crossed the dark street from the west side to the east side with her younger brother, a car can speeding past and struck her. The incident occurred around 5:50 a.m. The bus had not yet arrived at the time of the incident. Plaintiff suffered severe injuries. Continue reading