State to compensate $650,000 to teenager with autism

school busSalt Lake City — A 19-year-old with autism will be compensated by the state with nearly $650,000— four years after an incident where he had fallen off a school bus along Interstate 80.

The then-15-year-old Brandon Wade fell after he removed his seatbelt and opened the school bus’s emergency exit, as the bus kept on cruising even after an alarm went off.

Motorists behind the school bus noticed Wade fall and immediately notified 911. Neither the school bus driver nor his aide apparently noticed that one of their passengers were missing.

The incident happened as the teenager was being bused home from a summer school program at the Hartvigsen School for Special Needs in June of 2011.

The incident left Wade with minor physical injuries, but his parents are more concerned of the long-term impact of the incident on their child’s life. According to Assistant Attorney General Bruce Garner:

“The real damages came with the changes in his life and in the increased difficulty and expensive medications.”

The school board admitted through their attorneys that both the school bus driver and his aide were negligent, and the state agreed to compensate Wade with nearly $650,000— the biggest amount that the state can give as allowed by the law.

According to Garner, at the time of the incident, Wade was already poised to live independently and was looking forward to finding employment eventually, but irreparable damages had been done by the unfortunate circumstance. He added:

“It looks like he’ll need full-time professional care or placement in a care facility.”

After Wade’s parents filed a lawsuit against the school district, the parties agreed to a settlement of $648,700— the maximum amount that the law would allow. State law requires that any settlement amounting to above $500,000 must first be approved by legislative leaders, who, in this case, voted unanimously to agree on the amount that the state was to compensate the teen with autism.

Source: Robert Gehrke in The Salt Lake Tribune State to pay $650k to autistic student who tumbled from bus