Trial started this week in a case against the Capistrano Unified School District (“CUSD”) brought by the parents of a special needs child who, as a result of school district employee negligence, was strangled to death while riding a CUSD school bus home from preschool. Kevin Cisler was only three years old and was his parents only child at the time he was killed. The Cislers are represented in the case by Brian Panish and Tom Schultz of Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP.
The trial focuses attention on a rare neuro-genetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome, which Kevin Cisler had been diagnosed with as an baby. Angelman Syndrome causes intellectual and developmental disabilities, including speech impairment and movement or balance problems. Children with the condition also frequently laugh or smile and exhibit a happy demeanor.
Because of his disability, Kevin needed to be secured in a wheelchair while being transported by the CUSD to and from pre-school. Despite Kevin’s mother being assured that only qualified drivers would be transporting Kevin, on the day he died, Kevin was not properly secured into his wheelchair, slipped in his seat and was slowly strangled during the almost one hour bus ride from school. Kevin Cisler’s wrongful death clearly could have been prevented. The bus driver – who had minimal experience transporting special needs children – did not notice Kevin’s distress despite the fact that only one other child was on the bus at the time.
Although the CUSD has admitted to being responsible for Kevin Cisler’s death, shockingly, it is attempting to use Kevin’s Angelman Syndrome to argue that the loss suffered by his parents is somehow less devastating than the loss suffered by parents who lose a child without special needs. The CUSD is suggesting that the cost of caring for Kevin should be considered by the jury when it determines what to award the Cislers for the loss of their beloved son.
For more information about Angelman Syndrome or to donate to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, please go to http://www.angelman.org/.