Damages awarded in Califronia teen's wrongful death

February 28, 2017

At the end of a lengthy trial in the Compton Superior Court, a California family received a $26 million award in damages for the wrongful death of their teenage son, Mason Zisette. The deliberating jury handed down the largest verdict in California concerning a minor’s death.

Mason Zisette received an invitation to his friend’s sixteenth birthday party on a Starline tour bus. On July 10, 2014, prior to the festivities, Zisette texted friends and allegedly told them of his plans to consume alcohol before attending the party. His friends confirmed that he drank three beers half an hour before boarding the bus.

Four adults, including the parents of the girl having the party and the Starline bus driver and tour guide, were present on the bus. The birthday girl’s mother gave her daughter six bottles of Smirnoff vodka to share with her 35 friends. The teenagers headed to the open-air, upper deck of the bus while all of the adults stayed below.

After stopping to eat hot dogs and ice cream, the teenagers re-boarded the 13.3 feet bus and traveled south on the 405 freeway. The teens remained unsupervised while dancing on the upper level to loud music. Standing on an 18-inch ledge on the upper deck, Zisette nearly grazed two underpasses as many of the underpasses are just over 15 feet. The third underpass hit the back of his head, knocking him unconscious. After several days, Zisette passed away. Zisette’s parents filed a lawsuit against the bus company and each of the four adults.

The plaintiffs claimed that no one took any preventative measures to ensure the safety of the teens. No rules for the bus were given or enforced, and supervision was not provided. In addition, underage drinking was not only allowed but encouraged.

The defendants argued against one another, each adult placing the responsibility on someone else. Finally, the jury held all parties accountable with Starline Tours bearing the bulk of the responsibility.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the jurors might consider the age of the victim and increase the verdict accordingly. For further help, contact our office today.

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