With judgment slashed, stage set to challenge Pa. law capping awards

    A former Bucks County student whose leg had to be amputated because of a 2007 runaway school bus accident, is now slated to get much less than the $14 million a jury awarded her in December.

    A judge slashed the award, following Pennsylvania law which dictates that plaintiffs in civil cases against local governments, including school districts, cannot be granted more than $500,000.

    Former Pennsbury High School student Ashley Zauflik’s lawyer Tom Kline said he sees a positive sign in the judge’s remarks:

    “He said in his opinion that he felt constrained to follow the current Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions. He said that the decision he was making yesterday was unfair and unjust and that it was necessary – to use his words: ‘for the Supreme Court to revisit the issue’ of the Constitutionality of the limitation on recovery against municipalities and school districts,” said Kline. “The District essentially ran its own bus company.”

    Kline is appealing, and said he’s long expected this case would force the court to re-evalute the current law.

    Rob Sachs, an attorney in Philadelphia, said it’s time to revisit the law.

    “We’re all accountable,” said Sachs. “If a dog goes and digs a hole in your neighbor’s yard, you have to go fix that hole. We’re all held accountable in all sorts of ways in our daily lives and this is just talking about the concept of accountability for cities, counties, municipalities, school districts, and for the Commonwealth itself.

    Zauflik’s lawyer Tom Kline said if his client receives more money it will be used for her lifetime prosthetic care, and medical needs.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.