School bus accidents can present lots of problems. For starters, buses are much bigger than the cars and SUVs that most people drive on the road. Thus, when a collision occurs, the smaller car can sustain heavy damage. More disastrous is when the school bus is full of children or students. This could lead to a situation where many people are injured as a result of the crash, including severe injuries.
One such crash occurred in California when a school bus driver passed out at the wheel. The bus then veered off the road and smashed head-on into a tree. The lawsuit alleged that the driver suffered from pulmonary hypertension which can cause him to lose consciousness if his blood pressure increases beyond a certain point. The lawsuit further claimed that the school district did not inquire into his medical history before hiring him. Allegedly, three months before the crash, the school district received a call from a fellow employee, who advised that the defendant driver was consistently behaving oddly. The school district required him to submit a drug test, but halted the investigation after the test returned negative. Five lawsuits were filed. One student suffered a broken clavicle while another sustained a traumatic brain injury. The lawsuits were consolidated, and the district settled for $10 million.
This case is a perfect example of why the law allows recovery under the theory of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior is Latin for “let the master answer.” It is a theory of law that holds an employer vicariously liable for the negligent acts of an employee, so long as the employee was operating within the scope of his employment at the time. Applying this legal principle to the case mentioned above, Orange County Unified School District will be held liable for the acts of its driver, so long as Rupple was operating within the scope of his employment.