$10.9 Million Verdict Upheld In Fatal Bus Crash

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A charter bus was taking a group of senior citizens from DFW to the casino owned by the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.

Lloyd Rieve (photo courtesy of nbcdfw.com), who worked for Cardinal Coach, lost control of the bus in Irving. It flipped over and landed on its side. Sue Taylor, who had organized the trip, and two women, Alice Stanley and Paula Hahn, sustained fatal injuries.

Family representatives filed a lawsuit for the wrongful deaths of Ms. Stanley and Ms. Hahn. The plaintiffs settled with Mr. Rieve and Cardinal before trial and proceeded against the Choctow Nation, which denied any liability. It blamed Rieve and Cardinal for the crash.

The plaintiffs argued that the casino derived most of its income from bus trips like this, with most of them from here in North Texans. Cardinal had apparently failed to perform the required safety background check on its employee, Mr. Rieve, who had a bad driving record.

The trial took two weeks. The jury deliberated for four days.

The verdict awarded the Hahn family approximately $6 million and the Stanley family $5 million.

The casino appealed on 15 points of error. It argued that it could be not be found vicariously liable for the actions of its non employees, Rieve and Taylor, that they were liable, and other legal objections. All of Choctow Nation’s arguments were rejected. The court found that Mr. Rieve was its borrowed servant and the Ms. Taylor was its agent. Also frightening is that while the Dallas case was being litigated in 2016, another poorly run charter bus company that was also taking patrons to an Indian casino crashed. Eight people died and 40 others were injured. The bus company had already been ordered to remove one of its two buses from the road due to safety violations.

The irony is that this tragedy probably would have been avoided if the cash-rich casino had helped secure a better qualified, higher paid driver and and a safer, more reputable bus company to transport its customers.

As Dallas attorney Frank Branson, who represented the Stanley family, observed, “casino operators cannot escape responsibility when they negotiate contracts based on the absolute lowest bid without considering the safety of their passengers.”

Hopefully this huge verdict being affirmed will serve as a wake-up call to the casino and transportation industries to increase its screening of drivers and enforcement of safety procedures.

As dangerous as taking a bus trip can be, you can search the safety and inspection record maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by downloading this app.

The Dallas case is Choctaw Nation v. Linda Sewell et al., 05-16-01011-CV.

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Are casino bus passengers gambling on their lives?

Why are there so many deadly bus crashes?

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