Rita Bus Fire Victims Reach Settlement

May 15, 2006

Victims of a bus explosion that killed 23 Texas nursing home patients fleeing Hurricane Rita have reached an $11 million settlement in their lawsuit against the bus company and travel broker, according to court documents.

Global Limo, the owner of the bus, and BusBank, which hired the bus company for the nursing home, have agreed to pay the maximum coverage of their insurance policies.

Lawyers for the victims said the $11 million will be divided among the 21 survivors and the families of the 23 people who died, The Dallas Morning News reported in its May 12 editions.

The bus caught fire near Dallas last September after leaving Houston with residents of the Brighton Gardens nursing home as Hurricane Rita approached. Some passengers and the driver escaped but the flames, fed by 18 medical oxygen tanks that also caused explosions, trapped many inside.

“They have 23 people that died the worst way you can die,” said Randy Sorrels, a lawyer for the families of two victims. “They feel betrayed by the nursing home. They feel betrayed by the BusBank. They feel betrayed by Global Limo.”

In a motion to the court dated May 10, the law firm representing Global Limo said that both sides had reached the agreement. It calls for the companies to deposit funds with the court in exchange for being released from the lawsuits, according records provided by the passengers’ attorneys.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are negotiating with a mediator on how to divide the money, the newspaper reported.

BusBank, based in suburban Chicago, has a $6 million insurance policy. A spokeswoman declined to comment.

Global Limo’s insurance policy has a $5 million limit. The Pharr company’s attorney did not return phone calls.

Robert Luke, a lawyer for the families of six victims, said the passengers’ lawyers agreed that the offer was the best option because the companies insurance policies appear to be their main assets.

Luke said settlement negotiations may continue because Global and BusBank might also be covered by an insurance policy held by the Brighton Gardens, the Houston-area nursing home where the passengers lived.

“The settlement that we contemplated was contingent upon confirmation that the insurance that we knew about was in fact the only insurance,” he said.

Victims are also suing Sunrise Senior Living, which owned the nursing home, over negligence claims, and Motor Coach Industries, which manufactured the bus, over possible design flaws.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.