A wrongful-death lawsuit filed in connection with the deadly Nov. 21 elementary school bus crash in Chattanooga that killed six children and injured dozens more targets the bus’s manufacturer, claiming an inferior design and poor structure failed to prevent students from being ejected from the vehicle.
Filed Dec. 9 in Hamilton County Circuit Court by the family of 10-year-old Zyanna Harris, the lawsuit accuses North Carolina-based school bus manufacturer Thomas Built Buses of making an “unreasonably dangerous and defective” vehicle with an unsafe window system.
“There were safer alternative designs,” the lawsuit claims. “Specifically, a window system with embedded glass to minimize contact with the roadway.”
The lawsuit, the first wrongful death complaint to be filed in the wake of the crash, also names school bus driver Johnthony Walker, 24, and his employer, Durham School Services. Durham has a contract with Chattanooga to provide public school bus service, including vehicles and drivers.
Five personal-injury lawsuits have been filed so far in the wake of the Chattanooga crash. All of those named Durham School Services and Mr. Walker as defendants, but not Thomas Built Buses. Chattanooga’s Times Free Press reports that most of those lawsuits have been settled already, but the details remain confidential.
According to the Harris lawsuit, Durham was negligent in its hiring practices, and Mr. Walker was negligent about providing safe transportation for the students, some of whom previously complained about his driving.
The family of Zyanna Harris seeks $5 million in compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and funeral expenses as well as $500,000 in punitive damages.
“This has caused and will continue to cause severe emotional and psychological pain,” the lawsuit claims, “adding that the economic value of Harris’ life has been extinguished forever,” according to Chattanooga’s Times Free Press.