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Father seeks damages from Lodi Unified School District, city in fatal crash

District, city face lawsuit in accident that killed Lodi High student, injured sister

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Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:41 am, Wed Jan 30, 2013.

The father of a 14-year-old Lodi High School student who died while walking to school last fall has filed a civil lawsuit against Lodi Unified School District and the city of Lodi.

Andrew Prieto’s attorney is seeking damages for the victim’s sister, who was seriously injured and who witnessed the fatal vehicle Sept. 10, 2010, accident.

The girls were on their way to a district bus stop in Acampo in the early hours of the morning when they crossed a frontage road and one was struck by a vehicle.

Although attorney John O’Brien has filed a formal lawsuit, it will be months before an outcome is decided either way, he said.

“We’re in the discovery phase; the process takes six or eight months,” he said. “It’s long and tedious, and we’ll have a better idea of the case after that.”

LUSD Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said the district is saddened by the tragedy but is not at liberty to discuss the claim.

Brianne “Nikki” Prieto died when she was struck by a vehicle along the Highway 99 East Frontage Road just north of Woodbridge Road.

Prieto and her older sister were walking along the road, where there are no sidewalks on the wider path furthest from the highway, when they crossed over to look at something on the other side of the road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The younger student was hit on her way back and died from her injuries. Her sister, then 15, suffered injuries to her legs, arms, spinal column and nervous system, according to the claim.

The accident happened around 5:40 a.m., when it was still dark. The girls were on their way to Houston School to catch the bus.

At the beginning of last school year, the LUSD Transportation Department eliminated dozens of rural bus stops to save money. The stops eliminated included those that provided door-to-door service from a student’s residence to their school.

Former routes included stops along the frontage road where Prieto was hit. But the district said at the time Houston School was not one of the new hub stops under scrutiny by the public, and had always served rural students attending school within city limits.

One of the issues in the lawsuit will be determining what made the district change its decisions regarding transportation, O’Brien said.

News-Sentinel staff writer Jordan Guinn contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • Loren Knighton posted at 10:16 pm on Wed, Sep 28, 2011.

    Backncardr Posts: 3

    Actually the liability and expense has always been shifted to the public aka taxpayer. Couple that with a lawyer looking for deep pockets and you have a lawsuit like this hatched. No personal responsibility anymore and this kind of crud exemplifies that.

  • roy bitz posted at 7:54 pm on Wed, Sep 28, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Very tragic---very sad!
    I recall the details of this accident as reported in LNS and I believe the paper did a good job reporting the details. It was an accident and maybe it the driver of the car had chosen a different route--if the bus would have picked up at the previous location--if the kids were walking on the shoulder of the road facing traffic---this horrible accident would not have happened.
    I feel for the family's loss of a young girl and I feel for the driver of the car. The driver will live with this nightmare forever even though it was reported/determined the driver was not responsible.
    tI seems to me---- a case could be made for the driver of the car. Maybe the innocent driver should file a claim.

  • Kim Lee posted at 1:47 pm on Wed, Sep 28, 2011.

    Kim Lee Posts: 1798

    This poor family. How unbearable it must be to have lost a precious child. It should not have happened. So very sad.

  • Laura Rouzer posted at 12:41 pm on Wed, Sep 28, 2011.

    Laura Rouzer Posts: 55

    It's not LUSD's fault that the girl was unsafely crossing the road in the dark with an oncoming vehicle. This is a tragedy, but going after an already suffering school system is not the answer. If parents are going to start blaming the district for something they didn't do then I agree with Mr. Baumbach, eliminate the busses and make parents responsible for getting their children to school.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 10:27 am on Wed, Sep 28, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Such a shame that the school district is forced to defend itself against such a frivolous lawsuit. Money is hard to come by in today's economy and spending it on law suits rather than education for children is sad.
    Obviously, liability is very high. Maybe its time to eliminate busing all together and shift the liability and expense to the public.



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