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Special master appointed for school bus crash settlement

By Karissa Manis, Producer, kmanis@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 20 2013 08:09:21 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 21 2013 04:00:59 PM CST
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. -

Exactly five months after a school bus crash that injures dozens of students in Washington County, Tennessee, a hearing was held to determine who will decide how the claims money will be divided.

$700,000 is at stake. By state law, that's the cap for the injury or death of everyone involved in a single incident involving governmental agencies.

39 David Crockett High School students were on the bus when it crashed, and the process will begin soon to figure out who gets how much.

Cheyenne Buntin is still recovering five months after this bus crashed in Washington County, Tennessee back in September. News 5 caught up with her and her father Charles to see how this process has been. "The last MRI they ran showed that she had a two-centimeter gap still in her neck, so they're going to send her to Vanderbilt to be evaluated by the specialist there and possibly [get] treatment if needed," says her father Charles Buntin.

Cheyenne was the most critically injured during that crash, and therefore has a lot of bills to be paid off. "[The bill] is up quite a bit right now. I'm not sure the exact amount, but I know that it's been just a long, drawn-out [process]. I know they said it could take up to another year before they see any money at all," Charles said.

But Wednesday, a hearing was held to appoint a special master to oversee and administer the claims process. That person will determine how the claims money will be divvied up. Attorney Earl Booze tells us attorney Eddie Lauderback was chosen for this position. "The litigates are going to have to divide up the $700,000 based upon some formula that the special master, the court and all of the lawyers involved will approve," he explained.

Booze says it doesn't matter what the extent of the injury was or how many people were involved, $700,000 is the cap. "Our maximum exposure is $700,000 under all circumstances. It's very important for all children and their parents to understand that that's all there is, there is no more," he said.

While this is a step in the right direction, Buntin tells News 5 there shouldn't be a cap for these children and their lives. "[I] wish that things could've been different and it would've never happened, but mistakes happen," he says.

Earl Booze says he tried to get all litigates involved to be part of this lawsuit, whether represented by the council or individuals who are not represented by the council, so the special master can administer all of the claims.