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Lawsuits filed against school system in bus crash case

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Oct 23 2012 09:16:41 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 24 2012 02:40:44 PM CDT

Nearly one month after Washington County, Tennessee's school bus 88 crashed injuring over two dozen David Crockett high school students, legal action is being sought by those feeling the impact the most.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

Nearly one month after Washington County, Tennessee's school bus 88 crashed, injuring over two dozen David Crockett High School students, legal action is being sought by those feeling the impact the most.

News 5 pulled the five lawsuits representing seven students inside that bus when it crashed. Those lawsuits are seeking a combined $500,000 in damages.

Attorney Robert Bates with the Law Offices of Tony Seaton filed the complaints listing the Washington County, Tennessee Board of Education, not bus driver Brenda K. Gray, as the defendant.

"We have heard some evidence that there was the possibility of some conduct that they should've screened her better. But even if that's not the case, they're still responsible for her actions," Bates explained to News 5.

After reading through the lawsuits, we learned each one states Gray was negligent in her duties to care for the students on her bus, even reckless. "These kids are waking up every night with nightmares," said Bates. "A lot have permanent injuries that are going to impair their ability to make a living for the rest of their lives, to finish school, to go on to college."

Earlier this month in a press conference, prosecutors wouldn't comment on rumors of students encouraging Gray to go faster over hills, but these lawsuits state she attempted to "get air."

"Of all the folks we talked to, that's kind of the recurring theme that we hear is that that's what she was attempting to do. Take a high rate of speed into this hill, therefore trying to lift the bus off the ground," Bates said.

Bates said Tennessee state law limits payouts in a case like this to $700,000 for all plaintiffs combined, and Bates went on to tell us several new lawsuits are expected in just the next few days.

"Even if all 42 of these kids had unfortunately passed away, we would have to sit across the table and say, 'Your kid's only worth $16,000.' To me, that's a big injustice to each of these kids," said Bates.

Bates said it could take at least a year before any of these families could see any payouts.

We did reach out to the school system's attorney, Earl Booze, for more information and a comment; we have been unable to reach him at this time.