Washington County Board of Education hands over $700,000 check for crash victims

Becky Campbell • Oct 24, 2012 at 9:26 PM

The Washington County Board of Education handed over a $700,000 check to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office this week so a judge can determine how it will be distributed among 39 students on a bus that crashed and rolled last month.

The check was filed along with a court document called an interpleader, by attorney Earl Booze, who represents the Tennessee Risk Management trust. Because of the multiple victims and potential lawsuits, the interpleader allows the school system to put the issue into a judge’s hands.

In the document, the Tennessee Risk Management trust, which carries risk insurance for governmental bodies, asks that a judge determine which victims are entitled to part of the money.

By state law, governmental agencies have a $700,000 liability cap for injury or death of everyone involved in a single incident.

The filing comes on the heels of five lawsuits filed against the Board of Education last week by attorney Tony Seaton. His office represents 12 students who were on the bus, and Seaton has heard from Booze about the interpleader.

“We heard from the attorney that they have filed the interpleader,” Seaton said Wednesday.

“The problem is I don’t think the court will be able to distribute any money until the statue of limitations has passed. One of the reasons we filed suit (now) is so we can get copies of everything the county has done in regards to the investigation,” he said.

“It will allow our experts to see if there is potentially anyone else responsible other than the county.”

Seaton filed five lawsuits on behalf of seven students who were on the bus when it crashed Sept. 20 on Mount Wesley Road.

The driver, Brenda K. Gray, 54, of Jonesborough, lost control and went off the road. The bus, which carried 39 David Crockett High School students — including Gray’s son — turned onto its side and rolled once, officials said.

Gray is charged with eight counts of reckless aggravated assault, 31 counts of felony reckless endangerment, speeding, reckless driving and failure to exercise due care.

Several students suffered life threatening injuries and many were transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by WINGS Air Rescue.

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