Charter Bus Driver with Horrendous Past at Center of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In May, a charter bus driver struck and killed Justyna Palka, a young woman who was walking in a downtown Chicago crosswalk and had the right of way. She was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Palka, who previously graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009, contributed to the Chicago area while working as a graphic designer at Ogilvy & Mather.

The charter bus driver had no passengers in the bus when he hit her but had cocaine and alcohol in his system. David Soto, the 47-year-old bus driver, was arrested. During their investigation, the police found that Soto was being investigated for sexual assault and had two previous prison convictions for attempted rape and aggravated battery.

Added to that, he had 20 driving infractions from the 1988 to 2008. Also, his commercial driver’s license was suspended in August 2008 for speeding and driving without insurance. As a result, he had to get high-risk insurance to drive.

Pontarelli Group Charter, the bus charter company, alleges that they did not know of Soto’s criminal history or his cocaine and alcohol use. Palka’s parents are pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the charter bus company, alleging they should have done routine criminal and background checks as well as drug and alcohol tests.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says that charter bus companies should have a driver drug and alcohol testing policy that meets their regulations. Per the DOT’s SAFER website, Pontarelli Group Charter has nine vehicles and 10 employed drivers. The DOT advises that an employer must at least test 10 percent of its drivers randomly for alcohol and 50 percent of drivers for drugs. The employer must also have a drug and alcohol misuse prevention program, and the FMCSA can inspect this program and the testing results.

In 2009, the latest year that statistics can be obtained, more than 4,000 pedestrians were killed by an automobile nationally. In Illinois, 111 pedestrians were killed. In dense, urban areas such as Chicago, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists need to be extra cautious because of all the distractions happening.

When a life is taken, families have the right to seek justice and pursue a wrongful death lawsuit for their loved one. A Chicago wrongful death lawyer can help a family get compensation for funeral costs, loss of financial support, and other costs. They can focus on handling the legal issues so that the family can spend time with their relatives and friends as they get through this tough time. Chicago wrongful death attorney and SuperLawyer Paul A. Greenberg, Esq. has years of experience handling these complex lawsuits. Briskman Briskman & Greenberg is a family-oriented law firm that is successful in representing families against those who are careless and negligent.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago wrongful death attorney and Chicago wrongful death lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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