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$132 Million Awarded in Bus Crash Lawsuit

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GavelA 2005 motor vehicle accident on an icy Colorado road is the source of a $32 million award made last week by an El Paso court. One of the highest awards in El Paso history, it is also the 12th largest made in the U.S. this year.

Ramon Bracamontes, a reporter for the El Paso Times, brings us the details of the accident:

According to the lawsuit, 33 people from El Paso and Juárez boarded a Los Paisanos bus in El Paso and headed for Denver in October 2005. Once the bus reached Denver, 11 of the passengers, all from Juárez, were transferred to a 15-passenger van owned by Los Paisanos. They were headed to Nebraska.

According to testimony, the van was on a highway just outside Denver when the driver, Flores-Garcia, began speeding and eating at the same time. He lost control of the van, which went over an embankment and rolled, according to testimony.

Flores-Garcia was noticeably absent from court proceedings, and testimony states that he has fled the county. Bracamontes writes:

Passengers Teresa Lozano Acevedo and Ascencion Ra mirez Caraveo died of injuries received in the crash. Five others were injured but survived the accident; they are Roberto Pacheco, Ariosto Manriquez, Manuel Parra, Maria Aguilar and Magdaleno Borrego-Lares.

During the proceeding, the victim’s lawyers argued that since it was a company van being driven by an employee, Los Paisanos should shoulder the responsibility for the crash. The lawyer for Los Paisanos took the position that the company should not be held responsible for the actions of an individual in its employ. He also encouraged the court to track down Flores-Garcia and charge him, which is hard to do since he is no longer in the U.S.

Bracamontes reports:

‘Los Paisanos treated these poor people like cattle,’ said Craig M. Sico, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. ‘The van, without seat belts, was driven over 188,000 miles in two years in the furtherance of an illegal interstate operation to move Mexican citizens across state lines.’

Even though this will almost certainly be challenged in court, the victim’s families are reportedly happy with the decision, according to their lawyer. He states that much of this was more about sending a message to Los Paisanos and other budget transport companies that they must comply with motor vehicle standards and attend to the safety of their passengers.

KTSM has its video report online (it is not embeddable, so you will have to follow this link: Jury Awards $132 Million in 2005 Crash).

Image by Thomas Roche, used under its Creative Commons license.

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