The jury gave their verdict. They awarded Ashley Zauflik, 22, $14 million dollars after a school bus ran her down and put her into a coma. The accident, when she was 17, cost her a leg, disfigured her, and caused her to struggle with depression. The case should be over, right?
Wrong. The state-mandated cap on damages is only $500,000. This was done in the name of tort reform, as accident victims being paid over a set amount is apparently a bad thing.
Lawyers for Zauflik argue that the court should uphold the $14 million verdict, as the cap is unconstitutional, reports NBC 10 Philadelphia. They also want the district to face sanctions, as they did not disclose the existence of a $10 million insurance policy until after the trial.
In regards to the issues of constitutionality, even if the lawyers have leg to stand on with their argument, the trial court is not likely to rule in their favor. Lower courts are bound by the rulings of higher courts as the interpret the law. If they feel that the cap is unconstitutional under state or federal law, they will make this argument now, and if they lose, they will appeal to the higher courts.
As for the insurance policy, the existence and amount of the policy are discoverable in the pretrial phase of the case. This means that if Zauflik's lawyers asked about the policy before the trial, the other side was required to disclose the information.
Because of the cap, there probably was not any harm done to the outcome of the trial by not disclosing the insurance policy, but the lawyers for the school district could still face punitive sanctions for their failure to disclose. The sanctions are likely to be closer to the thousands than the millions, but every penny helps to pay the legal fees for Ashley Zauflik.
- Find a Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Premises Liability Claims Against the Government (FindLaw)
- Ashley Zauflik Awarded $14M for H.S. Bus Accident (FindLaw's Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog)
Lawyers for former student who lost her leg in Bucks accident back in court to press case (Philadelphia Inquirer)