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December 28, 1999
Parents Seek To Send Warnings On Child Safety With $20 Million Suit
The parents of Juhi Shah, the five-year-old girl who was run over by a yellow school bus earlier this year, have filed a $ 20 million wrongful death suit against the bus company and the driver. Their attorney said the lawsuit intended to send powerful signals to all drivers to pay attention to the safety of children.
Juhi had got off the bus on March 24 and was apparently trying to shoo a bird out of the vehicle's path when she was run over, according to eyewitnesses. Her mother was standing at the curb when it happened.
Juhi, a student at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School in Queens, New York City, died instantly.
The bus driver, 62-year-old, Auden Cardenas, failed to ensure that she was safely in the custody of her family before driving off, the suit says.
Her parents, Priti and Snehal Shah, a diamond merchant from Bombay are suing the bus operator, Aucar's Transportation Inc, and the bus driver. They have not spoken about the death or the lawsuit.
Their attorney, Richard Vecchio of Worby, Borowick, and Groner, said, "Through their love and closeness, they are trying to deal with it (the death) and understand what happened." He would not comment on Snehal Shah's business dealings or family matters.
Though the police did not arrest Cardenas or press any charges against him, a magazine dealing with schools said he had been issued four motor vehicle summonses for improper plates, defective brakes and having an uninsured and unregistered vehicle. The bus company has refused to comment on the accident or the case. Cardenas did not return phone calls.
The law firm retained by the Shahs have handled two similar cases of children being killed by buses in recent years.
Attorney Vecchio said the lawsuit was filed on November 23 with the Supreme Court in Queens County, and the firm is in the process of serving it on the defendants. He added the case would "probably not" come up for trial before a couple of years.
Even if the case is ready for trial, he said it takes more than two years to reach the trial stage because of the backlog of cases in New York courts.
Vecchio said: "We are interested in pursuing this because an innocent child was killed. It was gross negligence on the part of the driver for failing to see this child, for failing to see what he should have seen."
"There is no amount of money that can compensate for the death of a child but we have to send a message to this bus driver and company and indeed to all bus drivers and companies."
David Worby, a partner in the firm, told reporters: "The frequency with which these events appear to be taking place is an indication that something is very wrong with the way the school bus transport business is being operated."
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