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A Safer Ride for School Children in Illinois

The Second District Appellate Court has ruled in favor of a mother who is seeking damages for the sexual assault of her daughter by her bus driver. Our own Associate Attorney Nathan Reyes was instrumental in securing this victory for families in Illinois.

The plaintiff in this lawsuit, Doe v. Sanchez, is the mother of a child who was inappropriately touched by her bus driver. The bus driver worked for a private company who was contracted by the child’s school district. The mother sued the bus driver and the bus driver’s company, alleging that the company was liable for the misconduct of its employee. The company filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that because it is not a common carrier it could not be responsible for an assault by one of its employees on a passenger. In Illinois, a “common carrier” is a transportation business or service that provides transportation to the entire public. A common carrier owes a high standard of care to its passengers, and the business or entity can be held liable for actions of its employees, including criminal acts.

The plaintiff argued that even though the bus company

was not a common carrier, it should still be held to the same high standard of care as a common carrier, because the students depend on the school district and the bus company it hires to ensure their personal safety. Thankfully, the Appellate Court agreed, citing case law and the strong public policy of ensuring the safe transportation of our students.

The company also claimed that it should not be held vicariously liable for the acts of its employee, because the employee was acting outside the scope of his employment. The Appellate Court disagreed, citing again that the duty of care of the bus company was non-delegable, meaning it could not be delegated to a third party (i.e. the employee). Again, the Appellate Court cited case law and the public policy in favor keeping our school children safe.

Thanks to the hard work of Nathan Reyes and the other attorneys who represented the plaintiff in her appellate case, Illinois is now a safer place for school children. This ruling means that private companies contracted by school districts will be more likely to careful screen their drivers, because they will be held liable for their misconduct. It also means that families like this one will be more likely to get justice when the unthinkable happens. Thank you, Nathan!

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