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Pa. High Court Weighing Whether Government Liability Caps Are Valid

By Cherri Gregg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on whether lawsuit damages should be capped when the government is the defendant in a case.

The question stems from a case in which a Bucks County, Pa. girl was run over by a school bus.

Pennsbury High School student Ashley Zauflik was crushed by the county-run school bus in 2007.  She lost a leg in the accident, and the jury determined the bus driver was at fault.

But her $14-million verdict was cut to just $500,000 despite the district's $11-million insurance policy.

"The law as currently constructed can be very unfair," says civil rights lawyer Dave Rudovsky.

Zauflik claims the state's limited-immunity statute violates her constitutional rights.

"The Pennsylvania Constitution requires full payment in this kind of case and any kind of limitation on damages would violate her rights to access to the courts and run against the constitutional guarantee to full compensation for proven wrongs."

The $500,000-government damages cap hasn't been updated since the 1980s. A ruling is expected sometime this summer.


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