$23.5 million settlement reached in lawsuit over special-needs teen's death on Whittier school bus

Paul Lee, a 19-year-old special needs student, seen left on a GoFundMe page set up by family, was found dead in a school bus in Whittier on Sept. 11, 2015. (KABC)

A $23.5 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against a transportation company by the family of a 19-year-old special needs student who died after being left alone for hours on a Whittier school bus, attorneys announced Monday.

Hun Joon "Paul" Lee, a Sierra Education Center student, was pronounced dead after he was found aboard the vehicle in a Whittier Union High School District parking lot on Sept. 11, 2015, a sweltering day in Southern California. Lee had autism and was non-verbal.

The vehicle's driver, 37-year-old Armando Ramirez, was accused of engaging in a sexual tryst with a co-worker at the time of the incident. He was arrested six months later.

Ramirez pleaded guilty in January to one count of dependent adult abuse resulting in the death, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. He was sentenced to two years in state prison.

"We are proud that Mr. and Mrs. Lee have taken steps to make sure the tragedy that has befallen them will not strike another family," attorney Rahul Ravipudi said in a statement announcing the settlement with Pupil Transportation Cooperative. "The Lee family and our firm will continue to be vigilant in monitoring not just the Defendants, but all school busing operations, in a continued effort to protect students and families from needless tragedies like the death of Paul Lee."

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