On February 3, 2017, 11-year-old Fabian Sanchez attempted to cross a four-lane road near his school in Victorville, CA. He was hit by a car going 50 miles per hour and sustained severe injuries that will require 24/7 care for the rest of his life.
Now, the Victor Elementary School District has been ordered to pay Sanchez’s family $28.5 million in damages. Why? Because the school wasn’t supposed to allow Sanchez to cross the street by himself in the first place.
Sanchez is a kid with special needs. He has an Individualized Education Plan established by the District, and part of that plan requires school personnel to provide him with “curb-to-curb transportation.” In other words, school officials were supposed to escort Fabian across the street.
Judge Wilfred J. Schneider Jr. decided the school district was negligent and liable for Fabian’s catastrophic injuries. Fabian’s lawyers from Wilshire Law Firm and Panish Shea & Boyle LLC say the district didn’t offer Fabian and his family any monetary compensation, but during a mediation before the trial’s penalty phase, VESD agreed to the $28.5 million settlement.
In addition to the payout, VESD is required to make changes to its procedures for special needs students.
“The school district offered our client $0 and rigorously fought liability throughout the last two years,” Jonathan Teller, Wilshire Law Firm’s senior trial attorney said in a statement. “Our entire team welcomed the opportunity to not only protect our client, but protect students nationwide, and that’s why we took on this fight and succeeded.”
According to the Associated Press, Sanchez’s injuries were devastating. He suffered a severe head injury that caused swelling and bleeding in his brain. He also had internal hemorrhaging, a broken jaw, and broken leg. A post on his family’s GoFundMe page says his tongue was split in half.
Sanchez was hospitalized for months.
“[His] cognitive function, speech, and motor control remain severely impaired as a result of his injuries,” the Victor Valley News reported. “And he will require 24/7 care, therapy, and medical attention for the remainder of his life.”
The school district took zero responsibility in their public statement. District spokesman Eric J. Camarena said they already have “good systems in place” and that the school took the “appropriate steps before and after the incident.”