Friday, August 28, 2015

Pennsbury to comment on bus-crash case

Press release to be issued Tuesday morning expected to address insurance coverage for accident that cost a 17-year-old girl her left leg.

Pennsbury to comment on bus-crash case

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Ashley Zauflik, now 21, outside the courtroom in the Bucks County Courthouse. (Bill Reed/Staff)

The Pennsbury School District, which has declined to comment on the $14 million verdict for former student Ashley Zauflik or its insurance coverage for the 2007 accident, will issue a press release Tuesday morning, a school board member said Monday.

"There will be a formal press release from Pennsbury that will address many questions," board member Simon Campbell said in an e-mail.  

Administrators and school board members have declined to comment on last week's verdict by a Bucks County jury. They also have declined to discuss  an admission by the district's lawyer for the case that Pennsbury had a $10 million "excess liability" policy for the 2006-07 school year.

Superntendent Kevin McHugh did say Monday that the district notified its insurance carrier five days after the Jan. 12, 2007 accident, in which about 16 high school students were hit by a runaway bus. Zauflik, a junior, suffered the most serious injuries, including a crushed pelvis and amputation of her leg.  

McHugh also said that districts routinely buy excess liability coverage "to protect assets and the taxpayers.” He said he had "no idea" why the policy with the Old Republic Insurance Co. had not paid off, which might  have headed off the four-day trial. 

One day before the start of jury selection, Pennsbury stipulated that it was liable for the accident. It stipulated that the district's bus driver  mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake as the students stood outside the school for their ride home. 

Campbell, who did not join the school board until 2009, filed a Right-To-Know request with the district on Monday for its insurance records. He also filed requests with other neighboring school districts and said he planned to ask all 13 districts in the county for their insurance policies.

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About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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