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Settlement Reached In Wrongful Death of Dubuque Girl

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 22, 2010 10:12 AM

On Monday, June 21, a settlement in a sad lawsuit was reached in Dubuque, Iowa. The Community School District and the city of Dubuque have agreed to pay $170,000 to the family of a student who died in a traffic accident in front of Hempstead High School in September, 2007. The family of 15 year-old high school student Lauren Schmidt will receive a settlement in the wrongful death suit they filed after she was killed in front of the school in a traffic accident. 

According to the report by THonline, 15 year-old Lauren Schmidt was crossing the street in front of Hempstead High School. As she passed in front of a school bus partially pulled into the street, she was stuck by the car of fellow student Codi Regan, 16. Sixteen year-old Ryan Glaser, a friend of Schmidt's, was with her at the time and was also struck and injured.

Both sides of the suit are keeping many of the details confidential. However, THonline reports, due to the impact on public funds, it has been released that the city has agreed to pay $55,000 of the settlement and the school district will pay $115,000. The portion the parties pay in a tort settlement, such as in this wrongful death suit, is usually based on the percentage of fault attributed to them. The insurance company for the school district, bus driver and city will pay the settlement amount.

Since neither the school nor the city was directly at fault in causing Lauren Schmidt's death, why are they parties to the settlement of the case? Although it is difficult to be certain based on recent reports about the accident, it seems that since the bus was pulled part way onto the street, possibly blocking the car's view of the pedestrians, the driver could be partly at fault for the accident. Under the legal theory of vicarious liability, responsibility for the negligence of an employee can extend to their employer. Therefore, any negligence on the part of the bus driver during the normal course of his duties may extend to his employers, the school district and the city.

"In my recollection, these are the highest amounts we have paid out in a liability settlement the past eight years," Ron Holm, director of Finance and Business Services for the district told THonline.

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