The Washington Post

Jury awards $90 million in Prince George’s County wrongful-death case

A Prince George’s County Circuit Court jury has awarded $90 million to the family of a 13-year-old girl who died four years ago after she was struck by a car while trying to catch a school bus.

The family of Ashley Davis, who was a freshman at Crossland High School, sued the Prince George’s County Board of Education after she succumbed to her injuries two weeks after the Sept. 1, 2009, crash. A six-member jury handed down the wrongful-death verdict — one of the largest in the court’s history — this month.

Davis was walking across Brinkley Road near Fisher Road in Temple Hills when a Lincoln Continental traveling east struck her, then hit a minivan and then a 17-year-old boy walking on the opposite side of the street, police said in initial reports about the two-car crash.

According to court documents, the system did not provide a safe bus stop for students who lived on the north side of Brinkley Road. After Davis’s bus driver “persistently negligently failed to stop at the appropriate stop,” the freshman began catching a different school bus, on the south side of Brinkley Road, which required her to cross the street, said John Costello, an attorney for Davis’s parents, Nycole Davis and Jerome Bradley.

Costello argued that the school system did not provide safe and adequate transportation for Davis to get to school.

“The jury was upset that [the school board’s] policy was not followed for a full week and a little girl in her first year of high school ended up suffering the consequences,” Costello said of the verdict.

Costello said he expects the school system to appeal the verdict.

Briant Coleman, a spokesman for the school system, said he could not comment on the case because it is pending. “No judgment has been entered on this case,” he said.

Nycole Davis described her daughter as an outgoing teenager who loved to shop and dance and had just started to enjoy writing poetry. Ashley also enjoyed spending time with her great-grandfather and her friends, her mother said.

“People who did not know her were able to hear her story, and they saw the negligence on the Board of Education’s part,” Davis said.

She said the decision “does bring some closure because someone is being held responsible . . . but the loss is still there and it still hurts. . . . It won’t bring her back.”

Parents in Prince George’s have complained for years about late school buses and unsafe routes that children have to walk to get to school.

Last year, the complaints grew more intense when the school system, which was dealing with a bus driver shortage, rolled out a new cost-cutting transportation policy that reduced the fleet by 130 buses, combined middle and high school students on some of the routes, consolidated drivers’ bus routes and cut the number of stops by 2,350.

The policy, which was originally projected to save the school system $10 million, also raised the maximum distance elementary school students can walk to school from 1 to 11 / 2 miles.

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.



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