Paralyzed teen files $300-mil lawsuit

August 12, 2008 2:58:27 PM PDT
Seven months ago, Valerie Piro would have walked into a room. Today, the 17-year-old is paralyzed from the chest down. The Stuyvesant High School student has endured months of rehab.

"It's up and down. Some days I feel really great. Other days I feel like this sucks so much," she said.

On January 12, 2008, Valerie was heading to the Dartmouth relays with friends. They were riding in a Ford van. All of them wore seat belts. Their track coach, Erin Taylor, was driving.

Thirty minutes later, Taylor veered off the road in Hartford, Vermont. The van flipped. Valerie was partially ejected.

Now she's filing a 300-million dollar lawsuit, blaming her school, track coach, Ford, the car rental company, the seat belt manufacturer and the Department of Education.

"It's called negligence if you drive off the highway with 12 children in the car. You should be able to keep your car on the highway," attorney Fredric Eisenberg said.

But the coach's attorney says Vermont police found there was no error on Taylor's part.

She has not returned to work at Stuyvesant. She fractured her neck in the accident and also plans to file suit.

Piro's lawyer also says the 13-passenger Ford van was dangerous and lacked side air bags.

"The next part of this suit has to do with the van and its safety record -- handling and stability problems, seat belt problems, lack or canopy air bags," Eisenberg said.

Ford maintains the van is proven to be a very safe vehicle when operated properly. Lawyers admit Taylor had never driven a van like it, but she was also never trained in renting it or advised by school officials.

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STORY BY: Kemberly Richardson

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bob Monek

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