Little v. Floyd Sinton Limited, 2017 BSCJ 12-0297

Barrie jury returns $7 million verdict for young plaintiff in an action against school bus company.

Date Heard: November 20, 2017

This four-week jury trial commenced on November 20, 2017, at the Barrie Courthouse. The jury delivered its verdict on December 15, 2017. Both liability and damages were issues to be determined.

On June 29, 2011, 13-year-old Sarah Little jumped out of the emergency exit door of a Floyd Sinton Limited school bus that was slowing to a stop. Ms. Little tragically struck her head off the cement and suffered multiple skull fractures, resulting in a traumatic brain injury.

On the issue of liability, the jury heard evidence from past students about a tradition where graduating Grade 8 students would jump from the emergency exit at the back of the bus on the last day of school. There was uncontested evidence that this tradition had happened over a number of years. The bus driver who witnessed this behaviour never reported it to the school principal despite knowing that the behaviour was dangerous. This inaction was in direct violation of the Defendant’s safety policies as outlined in their own handbook. The school principal testified that if she had been advised of this behaviour, she would have taken immediate steps to prevent it from continuing.

The Defendant argued that despite the Plaintiff’s age, she knew it was against the rules of conduct and the rules of the bus to jump out the back of the bus.

The Plaintiffs argued that the bus driver who failed to report this behaviour allowed and condoned a dangerous tradition to develop.

On the issue of damages, the jury heard evidence of how Ms. Little’s injuries left her with a host of physical, cognitive and psychoemotional deficits. On this issue, the jury heard evidence from the Plaintiffs’ experts and from a number of Ms. Little’s treatment providers. The Plaintiffs argued that as a result of her impairments, Ms. Little would require significant future care and be unable to complete post-secondary education or work in any capacity for the rest of her life.

The jury ultimately found that Floyd Sinton Limited was vicariously liable for the negligence of the bus driver in the following ways:

  • Failed to follow clear expectations as set out in their own handbook;
  • Failed to fulfill its duty of care obligation to Ms. Little;
  • Failed to exercise the standard required of a reasonable and careful person in the circumstances; and
  • Failed to report re-occurring unsafe acts.

The jury also found Ms. Little to be negligent because she knew it was against the rules of conduct to jump from the emergency door in a non-emergency situation.

The jury found Floyd Sinton Limited to be 75% at fault and Ms. Little to be 25% at fault.

The jury returned a verdict of over $9.3 million for Sarah’s damages, which was reduced to approximately $7 million for her contributory negligence.

 

Charles Jung
Written by

For Charles, the practice of law is about providing a client-focused service. In particular, the practice of personal injury law allows him to serve and empower individuals to overcome some of the most challenging times of their lives. His devotion to service is what motivates him to achieve the best possible outcome for his clients.

During his spare time, Charles enjoys staying active, watching sporting events and chasing his wheaten terrier around. Charles also speaks Korean fluently.