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The state has agreed to pay nearly $650,000 to the family of a student with autism who tumbled out of the back of a school bus on Interstate 80 four years ago, sustaining serious injuries that will likely require lifetime care.
Brandon Wade was a 15-year-old student at Hartvigsen School for special needs students and was being bused home from a summer program in June 2011 when he unbuckled his seat belt, walked to the back of the bus, opened the emergency exit and scooted out of the bus, hitting the interstate as the bus drove on at freeway speeds.
Wade survived the accident. Neither the driver nor the aide noticed Wade was missing, despite an alarm that sounded, and the bus drove on, according to court documents. Cars behind the bus called 911 to report the incident.
Assistant Attorney General Bruce Garner said the student suffered a concussion and other injuries. The immediate damages were smaller, but "the real damages came with the changes in his life and in the increased difficulty and expensive medications."
At the time of the incident, Garner said, Wade was on course to be able to live independently and possibly work. "It looks like he'll need full-time professional care or placement in a care facility," Garner said.
Wade's parents sued and the district, represented by the attorney general's office, acknowledged that the driver and supervisor were negligent. The case was expected to go to trial in June, but the sides reached an agreement on damages, with the state agreeing to pay the Wade's $648,700, the maximum the state can pay to settle lawsuits under statute.
Under the law, legislative leaders have to approve any settlements over $500,000. They voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the settlement.
"We think this makes sense," Garner said. "We think it's a good settlement."