In 2014, a crash involving a Starline tour bus resulted in the death of a 16-year-old high school student. The parents of the victim sued for wrongful death, and after a lengthy trial the jury awarded a $26 million verdict for the plaintiffs.
What Happened in the Lawsuit?
Mira Costa high school student Mason Zisette was invited to a birthday party celebration of a friend, aboard a double-decker Starline tour bus. Prior to his arrival at the party, he sent text messages to friends saying that he planned to drink alcohol even before he arrived. People at the party later testified that Mason drank 3 beers in 30 minutes before he boarded the party bus.
There were 35 teens in the bus. The adults present included the driver, a tour guide, and the parents of the birthday celebrator. The mother bought 6 bottles of vodka and gave them to her daughter, and told her to share the alcohol with her friends. The teens climbed up to the upper deck, while all the adults remained in the lower deck.
The teens were unsupervised in the open-air upper deck, where they stood and danced while the tour guide and the bus driver blasted music over the loudspeakers. The bus then went on a freeway and there were underpasses along the way. While the bus made it safely through a couple of underpasses, on the third underpass Mason was standing on an 18-inch ledge. Mason hit his head and was rendered unconscious, and he died 2 days later.
Mason’s parents filed a wrongful death suit against Starline tours, the tour guide, the bus driver, and the parents of the birthday girl.
Plaintiffs for the Lawsuit
The plaintiffs argued that the adults on the bus all failed to take certain necessary safety measures that would have protected the children (including their son). No one told the teens to remain seated and wear their seatbelts. No adult was on the upper deck with them, and the mother of the birthday girl even gave them alcohol. The bus driver and the tour guide were also blamed for allowing the teens to drink and dance on the upper deck as they cruised on the freeway.
Defense for the Lawsuit
The bus tour company held that Mason was at fault, because he was already drinking before he boarded the bus. Starline also maintained that the mother of the celebrant was to blame for giving vodka to the teens and for not supervising the party. The bus driver held that his superiors never informed him of any safety instructions, and that was the duty of the tour guide. The tour guide also maintained that he wasn’t given safety instructions either, and that it was the bus driver’s responsibility to see to the safety of the passengers. The parents of the birthday girl blamed the company for the accident, and insist that the alcohol had nothing to do with it. Our San Diego Wrongful Death Lawyers understand different unique ways to get around the defense theories in cases like this.
The Court Judgment
The jury found Starline 70% responsible, while the parents of the girl were 25% responsible. Mason was also held 5% responsible, and so the $26 million verdict was reduced by 5%.
These types of cases happen all the time and that is why it is so important to have the right lawyers on your side. At Personal Injury Lawyers San Diego, we care not only about our clients but we care about the results. We will do everything we can to get the right result in the case.
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