Safety is everyone’s first priority when transporting passengers to and from their destination. When accidents happen, especially involving children, the public reacts. In part 1, we find out how Jacob’s Law all started.
On July 12, 1994, six year old Jacob Strebler and other classmates at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in South Carolina, left the school campus for a swim lesson. They were being transported in a 15-seater Ford Econoline Van that did not meet federal school bus safety standards and was sold to the school in violation of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. When the van entered an intersection, an 18-wheeler ran the red light and struck the van. As a result, Jacob was fatally injured and a number of his classmates suffered significant injuries.
The Strebler family was shocked to learn the vehicle did not meet mandated federal safety standards for a school vehicle and even carried a sticker indicating that it was not designated as a school bus. They also learned that the headmaster of the school knew that the vehicle did not meet federal safety standards before the vehicle was purchased for the school and refused to take it off the road.
The Strebler family brought an action against the truck driver and trucking company that caused the accident, the car dealer who sold the vehicle to the school, and against Heathwood and its headmaster for utilizing a vehicle that it did not meet federal school bus safety standards. The case was settled against all parties in an amount which represented the largest settlement in a wrongful death of a child in the history of South Carolina. All amounts paid were confidential, except the $1,000,000.00 coming from the trucking company. A condition of the settlement stated that the school agreed never to utilize again a vehicle that did not meet safety standards and the dealership agreed never to sell another vehicle of this type to a school to transport students to and from school or school related activities.
Check back next week to read about the law that was put into effect in SC due to this tragedy.