Family of Chicago Pedestrian Killed by Tour Bus Receives $6.75 Million Settlement
By Dean I. Weitzman, Esq. on November 15th, 2013
After more than two years, the family of a 26-year-old Polish woman who was killed on a Chicago street when she was struck by a private tour bus in May 2011 has received a $6.75 million settlement from the bus company that employed the driver.
The driver of the bus had cocaine in his bloodstream while he was operating the vehicle on May 3, 2011, just before it struck and killed Justyna Palka, who was just coming into her own as a graphic designer, according to a report by NBC Channel 5 Chicago.
The bus driver, David Soto, who is now 50 years old, was just sentenced to 14 years in prison for killing Palka, plus an additional 20 years in prison on unrelated sex abuse charges involving two under-aged girls, according to a story in The Chicago Sun-Times.
The plaintiffs obtained public video footage that bolstered their claim that the bus turned right at a red light at the intersection of East Illinois and North Columbus streets, striking Palka in the crosswalk, according to the Channel 5 report. “The tour bus company, Pontarelli Group [Charter], was accused in the lawsuit of not performing the necessary background checks before hiring Soto,” the report stated.
Soto “twice told paramedics that he didn’t see Palka and was only trying to take a right turn with his tour bus when he hit her,” the Sun-Times reported. “Palka had taken four to five steps into the crosswalk on Columbus at East Illinois when she was struck. She was only blocks from her home.”
An investigation into court records showed that the bus driver, Soto had been ticketed some 20 times for traffic violations between 1988 and 2008, according to the paper.
Soto previously had been sentenced to eight years in prison in 1993 for an aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction involving a 6-year-old relative at his house in Chicago, the paper reported. He also had previously received a four-year prison sentence in 1982 for attempted rape and aggravated battery.
Certainly, these kinds of details should have come up and been red flags in the employment processes at the bus company, but Soto was hired and given the job of handling a large, heavy bus through city streets, endangering passengers and the public.
Tragedy does not begin to describe the grief of Palka’s family and friends in this terrible incident.
These kinds of tragic cases occur every day when innocent victims are hurt in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.
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