Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP is proud to announce that the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) have selected the firm’s landmark case Lee v. Pupil Transportation Cooperative and PSBR attorneys Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi and Robert Glassman among the 2018 finalists for its top annual award, the Consumer Attorney of the Year. The honor is awarded to a CAOC member or members who significantly advanced the rights or safety of California consumers by achieving a noteworthy result in a case.
Attorneys Panish, Ravipudi, Glassman and Sang (Nathan) Yun of Yun Law Firm represented the family of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee in a wrongful death case against Pupil Transportation Cooperative after the 19-year-old, nonverbal autistic student tragically died from hyperthermia as a result of being left alone for hours on a locked school bus in a Whittier bus yard on one of the hottest days in September 2015. Paul Lee, who relied on the bus driver to assist him with exiting the bus, was abandoned by a substitute bus driver for Pupil Transportation Cooperative who was arranging via text to have sex with his co-worker instead of checking to see if all students had exited the bus. The attorneys learned that four other students had been abandoned on one of the company’s buses over the previous decade, and none of the drivers involved had been fired. The Lee family reached a $23.5 million settlement with the bus company to compensate them for the loss of their son, and as part of the settlement the Whittier Union High School District and the bus company implemented ID cards and bus monitors to track all students getting on and off buses. The district also instituted a rule to call a student’s home or the bus company if the student cannot be found within 30 minutes of school starting.
As a result of Paul Lee’s death, Whittier Union High School District ultimately severed its relationship with Pupil Transportation Cooperative and began implementing its own WUHSD bus transportation service for students which is now in full-force for the 2018-2019 school year.
The Lee family and their attorneys were also instrumental in making changes to California law, working with state Legislatures to make sure no other family has to suffer the same loss. Thanks to their efforts, the “Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law” went into effect at the start of the current school year, the first law of its kind in the country, requiring all school buses in the state to be equipped with an alarm in the back that must be manually deactivated, so that drivers check the bus for students before disembarking.
The Consumer Attorneys of the Year winners will be revealed at CAOC’s Annual Installation and Awards Dinner November 17th, to be held in conjunction with CAOC’s 57th Annual Convention at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
For a full list of 2018 finalists, or to read the CAOC press release in its entirety, click here.