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SANTA ANA : Schools Not Liable for Injuries of Kindergartner Hit by Car

November 01, 1994|SUSAN MARQUEZ OWEN

An Orange County Superior Court jury decided Monday that the Santa Ana Unified School District is not liable for permanent injuries suffered by a 5-year-old kindergarten student who left school unsupervised and was hit by a passing car.

The school district will still pay the girl $225,000, however, because of an earlier out-of-court settlement that set damages, said attorney A.J. Pyka, who represented the district during the trial. The district made the agreement, he said, to protect itself against a potential multimillion-dollar loss.

Mayra Reyes, now 7, left Wilson Elementary School in Santa Ana when her baby-sitter failed to show up to take her home during the lunch hour on Jan. 28, 1993. She was being supervised by monitors who didn't notice she had gone, Pyka said. The girl had been warned by teachers and her mother against leaving the campus without an adult, he said.

The accident, near the intersection of 15th and Flower streets, left the child with permanent brain damage, a speech impediment and paralysis in both legs.

Fred Hunter, the girl's attorney, argued that the school was liable under a state law that holds school districts accountable for students' off-campus injuries if they result from negligence by school personnel.

But while the jury was sympathetic to the plight of the girl, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, jurors agreed unanimously that school personnel had done what they could do to protect her, one juror said. They also agreed after only a half-hour of deliberations that the child was old enough to know better than to leave the school alone.

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