Two law firms have filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of all the victims of the Nov. 21 Woodmore Elementary School bus crash that left six children dead.
Local law firm Berke, Berke & Berke and Maryland-based firm Murphy, Falcon & Murphy filed the suit in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
The lawsuit alleges that the Hamilton County Department of Education, its Supervisor of Transportation Benjamin Coulter and contract bus company Durham School Services knew that the driver, Johnthony Walker, 24, often slammed his breaks, drove recklessly and intentionally swerved as a form of discipline.
It claims that children had been hurt because of those actions before the crash.
The lawsuit details the trauma of the crash and of the children's injuries.
"The horror was foreseeable, predictable and preventable," according to the lawsuit.
It also alleges both the school system and Durham mismanaged the buses to save money and/or profit.
All this, the lawsuit alleges, was a violation of the children's constitutional rights.
A spokeswoman for the Hamilton County School System said leaders are unable to comment because the litigation is pending.
According to a news release from the law firms, the advantage of filing in federal court, in which constitutional violations are asserted, is that plaintiffs aren't subject to the state's monetary limits on liability for government bodies or Tennessee’s monetary limits on liability for damages.
The complaint is seeking punitive damages against both the bus company and the transportation supervisor for their roles in the crash.