Lawsuit Filed Against Bus Operator Following Kentucky Crash

By BRUCE SCHREINER | June 24, 2013

The parents of two students who were among those injured when a bus crashed on a Kentucky interstate as the group returned from a college campus visit have sued the charter bus operator, claiming the vehicle was not properly maintained.

The lawsuit also alleges negligence by the bus driver, who was not identified in the court filing this week in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

One of the parents bringing the suit was aboard the bus when it crashed and suffered serious injuries, her attorney said Thursday night.

Commonwealth Bus Service & Transportation Inc. is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Calls to the company on Friday were not returned.

The suit was filed barely a week after the high-profile crash, when the bus loaded with high school students careened left across three lanes of traffic on Interstate 64 and hit a concrete median. Thirty high school students from Louisville along with four adults aboard the bus were taken to hospitals.

“We believe this bus was not adequately maintained,” plaintiffs’ attorney William F. McMurry said in an interview. “We also believe that there was something awry with the suspension of this bus. School buses are designed to stay on the road. If they blow a tire, it shouldn’t be the end of the world, like it was for this bus.”

The group was headed back from a visit to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond as part of a program that gives students a chance to visit college campuses. The crash occurred near the Jefferson-Shelby county line.

Louisville police are investigating but haven’t released their findings on a cause. Investigators were looking into possible mechanical failure on the bus as a possible cause, which could include tire trouble, Louisville police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said shortly after the accident.

The crashed bus was leased to Commonwealth Bus Service, according to state Commercial Vehicle Enforcement spokesman DeWayne Koch.

Commonwealth’s fleet of vehicles had not been involved in any crashes resulting in fatalities or injuries for at least two years before the Kentucky wreck, according to federal safety records.

Plaintiffs in the suit are parents Cynthia Runions and Suzanne Strong. Each had a child aboard the bus who was seriously injured, McMurry said. Strong also was a passenger.

Runions’ daughter suffered a broken back, a concussion and a shattered elbow, McMurry said. Strong’s daughter suffered a serious back injury, and Strong sustained a concussion and has experienced dizzy spells since the crash that have kept her from working, he said.

The suit claims that Commonwealth Bus Service failed to properly maintain the vehicle to ensure the safety of its passengers.

Strong had been among those on the same bus the day before the crash as part of the outing to college campuses. She had concerns at that time about how the bus was handling when it hit bumps, McMurry said.

The suit seeks a jury trial. McMurry said he anticipates filing more lawsuits stemming from the crash.

“It’s amazing that no one was killed in this accident,” he said. “These children were tossed around in that bus like rag dolls.”

McMurry said he filed the first lawsuit so soon after the crash to ensure that evidence is preserved.

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