Two recent crashes in Texas show that they are.
1. On Saturday a bus driving to a casino near Laredo rolled over and catastrophically killed eight elderly passengers and injured 44 others. Just last year, the tiny bus company was twice ordered to take one of its buses — in its fleet of two — off the road. Louisiana inspectors found 15 safety violations involving vehicle maintenance, driver records and hours reporting.
Were these violations ever corrected? Was the same bus involved? These answers have not been released but seem obvious.
2.And just two weeks ago, a Dallas jury awarded $10.9 million to the families of two victims killed in another crash.
In April 2013, after stopping in Bedford to pick up passengers, the bus headed up the Bush Turnpike. In Irving, the driver lost control of the bus, hit barrels in the right lane, swerved across two lanes of traffic and hit a concrete barrier to the left, flipping the bus over. The senseless collision killed two people and seriously injured 40 others.
In addition to the size of the verdict, the case is unusual because the defendant is the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma that chartered the bus to drive seniors to its Oklahoma casino. However the casino operator was not driving it.
Why Was Casino Operator Found Liable?
The families of two women who were killed in the horrific bus crash sued the Choctaw Nation for negligence for engaging a bus driver who had been involved in a fatal accident in 1998. He had hit a good Samaritan who had stopped to render assistance at an accident scene. Despite his poor driving record, Cardinal Coach Lines of Grand Prairie hired the man to work as a commercial bus driver.
The Choctaw Nation stood to gain considerably from the free transportation it provided to the victims. As such, Choctaw Nation had a responsibility to take reasonable precautions when they hired the transporting company and driver.
Before trial, the Choctaw Nation strongly denied responsibility and made a tiny settlement offer to the victims’ families.
The Cardinal Coach Lines of Grand Prairie, which only owned five buses and was vastly underinsured, is vicariously liable for its driver’s actions. Choctaw Nation is also liable for putting its patrons in an unreasonably unsafe situation by wooing them with a free ride, refreshments and on-bus gambling, but failing to ensure their safety.
Holding the Choctaw Nation accountable sends a powerful message that companies cannot pass along their responsibility for safety to another company. The casino controlled who it hired and should also be held accountable for the deaths and injuries sustained.
Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury law firm Berenson Injury Law applauds the verdict and congratulates the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Legally, the South Texas bus company is in the cross hairs of injury lawyers. And the Choctaw Nation faces five more lawsuits and will appeal this verdict.
But who knows how many other mechanically unsafe buses with incompetent, exhausted drivers are out on our roads right now? Is this a risk to bet on?