The family of an autistic student whose body was found in his own vomit on a locked school bus in Whittier during one of the hottest days of 2015 reached a $23.5 million settlement with the bus company, the family's attorney said on Monday.
Hun Joon "Paul" Lee, 19, was found on a bus on a sweltering, triple-digit day in September. It appeared he was trying to get off the bus but all the doors were locked, the family's attorney said.
In January, Armando Abel Ramirez, 37, was sentenced to two years in state prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of dependent adult abuse resulting in Lee's death, prosecutors said. Ramirez was texting a coworker to arrange a sexual rendezvous on the day of the 19-year-old's death, the lawsuit from the family said.
Lee had a severe form of autism and did not have verbal skills. He relied on the bus driver to direct him to the door. Lee's family believes Ramirez was a substitute for Lee's usual bus driver who was not working that day.
"Paul Lee was the center of the Lee family's universe and his horrific death is an immeasurable loss," said the family's attorney, Rahul Ravipudi. "Not only was it the direct product of criminal actions by the bus driver, but the systematic failures of Pupil Transportation Cooperative and others."
An attorney for the bus company did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Lee's death led to the "Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law," which requires all California school buses to be outfitted with a child safety alarm and requires drivers to receive child safety training.
"We are proud that Mr. and Mrs. Lee have taken steps to make sure the tragedy that has befallen them will not strike another family," Ravipudi said.