The New Year was greeted by a terrible story of callousness, negligence, and criminal endangerment.
A bus matron neglected her charge, a 22 year old disabled man with an infant’s intelligence. The man was being transported from his school to home. For some reason, the bus did not drop-off the man at his Harlem home, but the bus dropped-off the other passengers. The bus returned to the storage lot in Brooklyn, and the bus matron did not bother to wake-up her charge. She allowed him to be locked-in the bus on New Year’s Eve on one of the coldest nights of the year. Eventually, the police located the man. He had to be hospitalized for hypothermia, and it is a miracle that he did not freeze to death. The matron was rushing to see the “Christian Liberace” at a New Year’s performance. The bus matron has been charged with criminal endangerment. See news story here.
This is negligence rising to criminal conduct. Although the matron had primary responsibility for her passengers and has been charged with criminal endangerment, where was the bus driver? Did not he bother to check before locking-up the bus?
A bus company which transport handicapped people has special obligations. It stands in the shoes of a parent. It has to take the same care of its passengers as a parent would regardless as to whether the passenger is under 18 years of age or an adult of limited capacity. This concept is called in loco parentis in that the bus company stands in the parent’s shoes.
The bus company, especially if a matron is provided, must keep order and make sure that its charges arrive safely and are brought back home safely. A bus transporting mentally handicapped people must make sure that the passengers are brought safely to their destination. Typically, the matron must make sure that there is someone to meet the bus at the school and that there is a parent or responsible adult waiting in front of the home. Also, a matron must make sure that the passengers are able to get and to get off the bus safely and without incident. Depending upon the passengers’ physical limitation, the bus matron might have to actively help the passengers on and off especially if there is a lift for wheelchairs.
We have handled cases involving injury to handicapped people involving motor vehicles and buses. If you or a family member have been injured due to the negligence of a bus for the handicapped, please call me at 800-581-1434.
Mark E. Seitelman, 1/3/09, www.seitelman.com.