Insurer seeks appointment of overseer for school bus wreck claims

Becky Campbell • Jan 23, 2013 at 9:49 PM

An attorney representing the insurance company for the Washington County Board of Education has asked that a judge appoint an overseer to administer monetary claims in regard to a September 2012 bus crash that injured 39 students.

Earl Booze, who represents Tennessee Risk Management Trust, filed the motion earlier this month that also asks Circuit Court Judge Thomas Seeley to release the school board from further liability and allow the disposal of Bus 88.

The motion hearing is set for Feb. 20 at 1 p.m.

So far, only five lawsuits representing six of the 39 David Crockett High School students injured have been filed, but all the students would likely be entitled to some compensation.

By state law, the school board’s monetary liability is limited to $700,000 for the incident, and all parties would have to share that amount.

Risk Management has already turned over a $700,000 check to the court clerk’s office.

In Booze’s motion, he asks the court to combine all lawsuits and claims in the case and prevent any party from “instituting any further actions,” against the school board, the driver or the insurer.

“The board, having admitted liability and tendered its policy limits in this case, would request to be relieved of the burden and responsibility for the preservation of the bus as evidence in this case and that the plaintiffs be allowed to dispose of the bus,” Booze’s motion reads.

The lawsuits stem from a Sept. 20 bus crash on Mount Wesley Road. The driver, Brenda K. Gray, is accused of traveling well over the speed limit — between 52 and 60 mph in a 30 mph zone — along the curvy road.

Investigators have said Gray topped a hill in a curve, went off the left side of the road then overcorrected and went off the right side of the road. Then the bus turned over and rolled once.

All 39 students — including Gray’s son — had some degree of injury, but seven suffered the worst injuries, including one girl who was partially scalped.

Criminal charges are pending against Gray. She’s been charged with 39 counts of reckless aggravated assault, speeding and reckless driving.

If convicted, Gray faces two to four years on each count of reckless aggravated assault.

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