$350K Settlement Reached in Pennsylvania School Bus Stop Death

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Ashley Clark

In a settlement announced Friday, two insurance companies will pay a combined total of $350,000 to the family of 13-year-old Ashley Clark (pictured), who was killed in a fatal bus-stop accident in December 2011.

The insurance company for the Fort LeBoeuf (Pa.) School District agreed to pay $325,000 to settle any potential liability claims against the district, reported Erie Times-News. Court records show that the insurance company for Tyler Festa, whose vehicle struck and killed Clark, will pay a further $25,000. The amount is Festa’s insurance policy limit.

Of the proceeds, $226,954.51 will be paid to Clark’s estate, which is administered by her mother, but the amount will be split between both parents. Under the agreement filed in Erie County Orphans’ Court, neither the district nor Festa admitted any wrongdoing, and Clark’s estate agreed not to pursue a wrongful death claim against them.

Charges are pending against Festa, including homicide by vehicle and reckless endangerment, but the most serious counts were dismissed in Erie County Court. The state Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case.

Clark was a sixth-grader at Westlake Middle School when she and 17-year-old Taz Giannelli were struck by Festa’s vehicle while crossing the two-lane road to catch their bus in front of Popp’s Mobile Home Park. According to her obituary, Clark was a straight-A student who cheered for the middle school football team and participated in school plays and the chorus.

Plaintiffs said their investigation showed the school district had notice of safety concerns about the bus stop, which required students to cross a busy, poorly lit stretch of Route 97. The settlement agreement states the district had previously moved the bus stop for elementary school students to allow them to board the bus without having to cross the road.

It also states that parents and community members, including Popp’s manager Richard Smith, had expressed concerns about the bus stop to the district and asked for it to be moved for the older students as well.

Smith had “contacted school district personnel to voice concerns that the children were often entering the roadway in anticipation of the bus and thus were exposed to possible injury from a motor vehicle accident,” according to the settlement. He reiterated his concerns on Nov. 8, 2011 — about a month and a half before Clark’s death.

After the tragedy, the school district relocated the bus stop to the same side of the road as Popp’s Mobile Home Park and reportedly changed several other bus routes as well.

Fort LeBoeuf Superintendent Debra Spaulding did not return calls for comment at press time.