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Corboy & Demetrio Files Civil Lawsuit in Death of Justyna Palka, Pedestrian Killed by Bus

Chicago Lawsuit Claims Charter Bus Company Negligent in Hiring Driver

CHICAGO, IL - Corboy & Demetrio filed suit today on behalf of the family of Justyna Palka, age 26, who was killed on May 3, 2011 as she walked home from work across N. Columbus Dr. at E. Illinois St. Justyna was struck by a Pontarelli Group Charters, Inc. bus as she crossed the street, with a green light, in the marked crosswalk. The bus was driven by David Soto.

After the incident, David Soto allegedly tested positive for cocaine. Mr. Soto remains in custody at Cook County Jail where he is being held without bond. The lawsuit alleges that Pontarelli Group Charters, Inc. was negligent in hiring and retaining David Soto, as he is a convicted felon who has received twenty (20) citations for traffic violations and had his Commercial Drivers License temporarily suspended in 2008. The Complaint alleges that if Pontarelli had performed proper background checks (as it promises to do on its website), it would have discovered this and would have learned that Mr. Soto was the subject of Investigative Bulletins regarding claims of predatory sexual assault.

Thomas A. Demetrio, founding partner of Corboy & Demetrio, stated:

Pontarelli’s utter failure to ensure that its professional drivers were appropriately qualified resulted in a truly unnecessary loss of life. Justyna had a tremendous future ahead of her - she was beloved by her friends and family and was an extraordinarily gifted young lady who graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago two years ago and was a rising star in the Chicago office of Ogilvy & Mather, a worldwide advertising firm.

This lawsuit will expose the flaws in Pontarelli’s hiring and retention practices to ensure that other families will not be forced to endure the heartbreak the Palka Family is experiencing.

William T. Gibbs, another Corboy & Demetrio trial attorney, stated:

This tragic loss was entirely preventable: First, Pontarelli should have never hired this dangerous individual as a professional driver; Second, Mr. Soto’s decision to drive a bus in his impaired condition is unforgivable; Third, the failure of a professional driver to yield to a pedestrian crossing a street in a marked crosswalk is reprehensible.

The Palka Family is justifiably devastated by the loss of Justyna...while their memory of this bright, loving, talented, and beautiful young woman will endure, their grief is immeasurable. We share the sorrow of her mother, Malgorzata, father, Ludwik and two brothers, Sebastian and Tomasz.

The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Law Division and assigned to The Honorable Ronald S. Davis. Corboy & Demetrio will request Judge Davis enter an Emergency Protective Order mandating that Pontarelli preserve and protect the subject bus in order to allow Corboy & Demetrio’s experts to inspect and examine videotape footage and Black Box Data. Additionally, Corboy & Demetrio will seek, via subpoena, videotape footage of the incident that is currently in the possession of P.J. Clarke’s (an establishment at the corner of Illinois and Columbus) and the City of Chicago, Office of Emergency Management Center. The entire occurrence was caught on P.J. Clarke's surveillance video tape.

To speak with an attorney at Corboy & Demetrio, please call 312.346.3191.  We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Corboy & Demetrio
33 N. Dearborn Street
21st Floor
Chicago, IL 60602