School district hides evidence of its negligence in selection of bus stop locations and is sanctioned by court before trial. Later argues value of adopted son's death.
- Case Name: Jong Ja Jun v. Chaffey Joint Union High School District and Imelda Hughes
- Court and Case Number: San Bernardino Superior Court / CIVDS1112258
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, July 30, 2015
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, October 24, 2011
- Type of Case: Dangerous Condition Public Property, Wrongful Death
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Brian S. McCarville
Plaintiffs: Ja Jun, biological aunt and adoptive mother of decedent.
Defendants: Chaffey Joint Union High School DistrictImelda Hughes
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $20,500,000
Award as to each Defendant:
The jury found the School District 100 percent responsible for the damages.
The jury awarded Jin's mother $4,500,000 in past non-economic damages and $16,000,000 in future non-economic damages, for a total verdict of $20.5 million.
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 23 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours.
- Jury Polls: 12-0 past noneconomic; 11-1 future noneconomic; 11-1 100% fault to school district.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Panish, Shea & Boyle, LLP by Rahul Ravipudi, Deborah Chang, Thomas A. Schultz, and Matthew Stumpf, Los Angeles.
Attorney for the Defendant:
McCune & Harber, LLP by Stephen M. Harber, Los Angeles. (For Chaffey Joint Union High School District).
Calendo Puckett Sheedy, LLP by Christopher M. Sheedy, Glendale. (For Imelda Hughes).
Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Augustine C. Zemba, busing, San Diego.
Edward Stevens, traffic engineering, Olympia, WA.
Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
David Roseman, traffic engineering, Long Beach.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
On the morning of Dec. 6, 2010, plaintiff's decedent and adopted son, Jin Ouk Burnham, 15, a sophomore high school student, was attempting to cross Duncan Canyon Road, an uncontrolled five lane highway with east-west traffic, and Serrano Avenue, with north-south traffic, towards a bus stop in the City of Fontana, on a bus route established by the School District. The bus stop was the only one near Jin's home. While crossing Duncan Canyon Road in an unmarked crosswalk at Serrano Avenue, Jin was struck by a vehicle, operated by Imelda Hughes. Jin suffered catastrophic injuries and passed away 15 days later.
Plaintiff, Jong Ja Jun, Jin's adoptive mother, sued the Chaffey Joint Union High School District, the City of Fontana, the State of California, Hughes and the People of the State of California. The State of California was dismissed before trial commenced. The Court dismissed the case against the City of Fontana on summary judgment and settled the matter with plaintiff.
When trial commenced, the only defendants were Chaffey Joint Union High School District and Imelda Hughes.
Plaintiff contended that the District was responsible because in the year prior to Jin’s death, they had bus stops on both sides of Duncan Canyon Road so that children did not have to cross Duncan Canyon Road to get to a school bus stop. However, at the start of the 2010 school year, plaintiff contended that the District removed the stop on the south corner of Duncan Canyon Road and Serrano which required Jin and others to cross Duncan Canyon Road to get to the stop on the Northeast Corner. The traffic on Duncan Canyon Road traveled at freeway speeds averaging 56 miles per hour with a top speed of 71 miles per hour. Plaintiff contended this was illegal in violation of 13 California Code of Regulation 1238(b)(3) and consequently constituted a dangerous condition of public property.
By the time of trial (see notes), the court found that defendant School District had created a dangerous condition which was a cause of Jim's death. At trial, the school district disputed the value of the loss of the relationship between Jin and his mother, arguing that the jury should award plaintiff only $1,500,000. The District further suggested that the jury find Mrs. Hughes 50% at fault and use its discretion in apportioning the remaining fault between Jin and the District.
The District denied all of the allegations. Throughout the pendency of the litigation prior to trial, the District contended that it routinely at year end discards all of its bus stop designation materials and, therefore, produced no relevant documents in discovery. Through its employees, the District denied every single one of plaintiff’s allegations claiming that it never removed any bus stops, that its bus stops were in effect for years with no prior incidents, that the bus stop at issue was not in violation of 13 CCR 1238(b)(3) because the bus did not stop on a multi-lane highway, but further up a cross street which had traffic controls. In addition, the District employees claimed there was a stop in effect closer to Jin’s home on the south side of Duncan Canyon so that Jin did not need to cross Duncan Canyon to get to the subject stop. Finally, the District contended that both the driver, Ms. Hughes, and Jin were the sole negligent and responsible causes of Jin’s death.
Injuries and Other Damages
Death; loss of society.
Jin was in a coma for 15 days as a result of the siginificant trauma to his head and body. He ultimately succumbed to his injuries on December 21, 2015.
Jong Ja Jun was Jin's biological aunt. Mrs. Jun and Jin lived with Jong's fiance James Lee, whom Jin referred to as his Uncle. Mrs. Jun legally adopted Jin in August of 2009, a little more than a year before he died. Mrs. Jun was 54 years old when she adopted Jin. Mrs. Jun sought recovery for wrongful death damages for the loss of her only child.