SKETCHES OF COURT: Jury awards $5.7 million in 2006 school bus tragedy
In this courtroom sketch, Hon. Genine Edwards listens as plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Feldman (standing), of the law firm Jacoby & Meyers sums up his arguments to the jury in the wrongful death trial Sadiq, et al, v. Jofaz Transportation Inc., et al.
In the tragedy that garnered media attention 10 years ago, Amber Sadiq was an 8-year-old schoolgirl in the path of a runaway bus. The unattended yellow school bus had been parked on Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights but was broken into through the emergency exit doors, which in accordance with the law were kept unlocked. A troubled 8-year-old intruder, playing bus driver, then managed to release the emergency brake. He fled but the heavy bus was on a grade, and within a short distance had rolled to where the girl had just crossed the street while holding hands with her brother. The boy escaped injury, but his sister was pinned under a wheel and died.
The plaintiffs are Amber Sadiq’s parents, as administrators of the estate, and the now 20-year-old brother, who was himself in the zone of danger at the time of the accident. The defendant driver, bus company and truant boy are represented by Carl Schaerf (seated) of the law firm Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis. At right is co-counsel Allison Fihma-Drachman.
Feldman sought to implicate the bus company as negligent in the training of the driver, who would be in violation of Sec. 1210a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law if he failed to turn the wheels to the curb when he parked the bus. Feldman further claimed that Amber had 12 minutes of conscious pain and suffering before she died and that her brother suffers from severe psychological disorders as a result of the incident.
Schaerf maintained that Sadiq died almost instantly. He disputed any negligence on the part of the defendant bus company and driver and alleged that Sadiq’s brother, while understandably affected by the incident, was not seriously and verifiably injured by the experience to support his claim for emotional damages.
The jury returned a plaintiffs’ verdict, finding the defendant bus driver in violation of Sec. 1210a and, together with Jofaz Transportation Inc., 40 percent responsible for the accident. The boy who released the brake did not appear in court but was found 60 percent responsible. The jury awarded damages in the amount of $5 million to the estate of Amber Sadiq, and awarded a total of $700,000 for past and future pain and suffering to her brother. Court reporter Stacy Constantine (at left) recorded the proceedings in the trial that resolved this week in Kings County Civil Term. Post-trial motions are pending.
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