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US – Court rules that Choctaw casino is responsible for charter bus safety

By - 3 May 2016

A Dallas County jury returned a combined $10.9m verdict against the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma for its role in a deadly 2013 crash of a charter bus that was carrying elderly North Texas residents to the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma.

Jurors deliberated more than four days before awarding a combined $10.9m verdict on May 2 for the deaths of 83-year-oldAlice Stanley and 69-year-old Paula Hahn. The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson represented the estate and surviving children of Ms. Stanley, who was hospitalised for 10 days before dying from her injuries, which included a traumatically amputated arm and numerous broken bones sustained when she was partially ejected from the bus. Jurors awarded $4.9mto the estate and family of Ms. Stanley and $6m to the estate and family of Ms. Hahn, who was represented separately by Spencer Browne of Reyes Browne Reilley.

The Choctaw Nation offered to settle the Stanley lawsuit for $50,000 before trial and aggressively contested its responsibility for the crash, arguing that passenger safety was the sole duty of the charter bus company, Cardinal Coach Lines, and its driver. To reach their verdict, jurors made a key finding that the Choctaw Nation retained the right to control the charter bus and its driver and thus bore responsibility for the safety of the casino’s passengers on the charter bus. In addition to Mr. Branson, the Branson trial team included Chip Brooker and Debbie Dudley Branson.

“The Choctaw Nation can’t simply farm out its passengers and other key bus operations without consideration for the safety of its charter bus operators and drivers,” says lead trial lawyer Frank Branson. “This jury spoke loud and clear, and hopefully this verdict forces the Choctaw Nation to take the safety of North Texas residents seriously. They are the most precious cargo that the Choctaw Casino carries every single day.”

The crash occurred April 11, 2013, before the Cardinal bus had even left the Dallas-Fort Worth area with a group of 45 senior citizens on a day trip to the casino. According to trial testimony, a woman who organized the trip on behalf of the Choctaw Nation did not ensure that basic safety measures were followed inside the bus.

Witnesses also testified that bus driver Loyd Rieve was distracted immediately before the bus veered into guard barrels on northbound George Bush Turnpike in Irving, swerved across multiple lanes, hit a concrete barrier and flipped over. All told, three passengers were killed and dozens more were injured.

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