$10 million verdict returned in St. Lucie County school bus trial
Aaron Beauchamp was a remarkable 9 year old child. Nurtured and loved by his parents Lillian Beauchamp (a school Principal) and Simon Beauchamp (an artist), Aaron excelled in every facet of his life. Aaron consistently won awards for his perfect attendance and straight “A” grades. Moreover, Aaron was an outstanding soccer player, earning the nickname “Little Messi” from his teammates. His future could not have been brighter.
On the morning of March 26th, 2012, Aaron’s dad drove Aaron to the bus stop. Tragically, he would never see Aaron alive again.
On March 26th, 2012, while Aaron Beauchamp was finishing up his day at elementary school, the St. Lucie County School District assigned an extra route to the school bus driver that would soon be transporting Aaron home to his parents. As a result of the added routes, the driver was required to drive an additional 20-30 minutes west of town for the drop offs. The bus driver was not familiar with this route. The bus driver drove westbound on Okeechobee Road towards the Fairgrounds. Typically, those children would be dropped off at 3:30 p.m.
It was now nearly 4:00 p.m. The sky was clear and the roads were dry while the bus driver transported 30 children between the ages of 5-10. Aaron was seated in the back of the bus. Aaron was wearing his lap-only seat belt. One of the last images caught on the bus’s surveillance videotape was that of Aaron assisting the young girl in front of him to put on her seat belt. Helping others was not uncommon for this 9-year old who also excelled in academics and sports.
As the driver approached the intersection at Midway Road, he turned left across the intersection. For some reason, he failed to see a fully-loaded tractor trailer proceeding eastbound in the right hand lane. He turned the school bus directly in front of the oncoming semi.
As a result of the school bus driver’s actions, the semi (which weighed approximately 70,000 pounds loaded), struck the right- rear portion of the school bus causing the bus to spin 180 degrees in a few seconds. During the collision, Aaron Beauchamp was ejected out of his seat and seat belt and struck his head resulting in fatal injuries.
After months of grieving, Lillian and Simon Beauchamp contacted Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey, and Fronrath to bring justice for Aaron.
The case against the St. Lucie County School District went to trial in August 2015. The family was represented by rm partner Lance C. Ivey and Matthew E. Haynes. Although the School District admitted that it was partially responsible for causing the accident, it denied that it was responsible for Aaron’s unfortunate and untimely death.
The School District blamed the tractor trailer operator for exceeding the speed limit and operating the tractor trailer without properly working brakes. Furthermore, the School District blamed the manufacturer of the school bus claiming that the seat cushions and seat belts were defective.
In September 2015, the jury returned a verdict for $10 million for the Beauchamp family. They apportioned liability as follows: 87% against the School District; 13% against the tractor trailer operator; and, 0% against the manufacturer of the school bus,
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