A $1.7-million verdict against the Conejo Valley Unified School District was upheld by a state appeals court Wednesday on behalf of two children who were injured seven years ago when a car struck them in a school parking lot.
The court ruled that the district helped create the traffic congestion in a small parking lot at Ladera School in Thousand Oaks and ignored warnings by several school principals that the area posed a danger to students who were being dropped off or picked up by parents.
Acting Supt. Sarah Hart said Wednesday that the district has since reduced the congestion by increasing the size of the student loading zone. She emphasized, however, that the district contends the congestion did not cause the accident.
The case stems from an incident on the afternoon of March 6, 1986, as students waited to be picked up at the school. As they stood on a sidewalk next to the school parking lot, a mother lost control of her car. It lurched forward, jumped the curb and struck seven children.
Heather Altreche, then 9, suffered serious leg and pelvis injuries. Alexandru Constantinescu, who was 11, had major burns. Five other children suffered lesser injuries.
Attorneys who worked on the case said the school district will be liable for about $1 million of the verdict, with the balance covered by settlements previously reached with other defendants.
The appeals court, based in Ventura, ruled that "there was an amalgam of factors caused by (the) district that made the lot dangerous."
The factors included allowing a small area that was once a bus loading zone to be used by parents to pick up their children and eliminating staggered release times so all the children were waiting for parents at the same time.