The families of 23 nursing home residents who died in a bus fire will share an $88 million settlement. In September 2005, several residents of a home in Bellaire were loaded onto a bus after Hurricane Rita brought a mass evacuation of the area. While en route to Dallas, the bus got a flat tire, which was changed by a towing company. The driver resumed the trip but was soon flagged down by a motorist who noticed a rear axle was glowing red hot. The driver pulled over, but the tire caught fire. Smoke and fire entered the cabin, killing 23 of the 44 occupants. An investigation found that an overheated axle caused the fire and that poor maintenance was a contributing factor. The victims' families sued several parties, including the bus company, driver, towing service and a company that serviced the bus prior to the departure, alleging they all played a role in the incident. The exact breakdown of the Sept. 20 settlement was not disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement.
Bellaire Nursing Home Residents v. Motor Coach Industries Inc., et al., No. 05-1073
Court: 206th District Court, Hidalgo County
Plaintiffs' Attorneys: Muhammad S. Aziz and Randy Sorrels, Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz, Houston; Sherie P. Beckman, Janie L. Jordan and Richard W. Mithoff , Mithoff Law Firm, Houston; Frank L. Branson and Quentin D. Brogdon, Law Offices of Frank Branson, Dallas; Michael Brown, Houston; Jim Darnell, El Paso; Christopher Dean, Clark, Dean, Burnett, Houston; Anthony Farah and John Leach, The O'Quinn Firm, Houston; Michael J. Garza, Law Office of Michael J. Garza, McAllen; Michael Golemi, Liskow & Lewis, Houston; Gregory L. Gowan, Huerta, Elizondo & Gowan, Corpus Christi; Jill B. Herz, Dallas; Eileen Kisluk, Houston; W. Mark Lanier and Larry Wilson, The Lanier Law Firm, Houston; Robert Luke, Tad Rice and Ron Simon, Simon & Luke, Houston; Amy L. Nilsen and Earnest W. Wotring, Connelly Baker Wotring, Houston; Jim M. Perdue Jr., The Perdue Law Firm, Houston; Michael W. Perrin, Bailey, Perrin & Bailey, Houston; Ray Putney, Law Offices of Ray Putney, Houston; Mark Romney, Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller, Dallas; Mikal C. Watts, Watts Guerra Craft, Corpus Christi; John Eddie Williams Jr., Williams & Kherkher, Houston.
Defense Attorneys: Fields Alexander, Troy Ray Ford, Thomas E. Ganucheau, Andrea Paterson, Jennifer Pratchett and Joe W. Redden Jr., Beck, Redden & Secrest, Houston; Darrell L. Barger and John Dacus, Hartline, Dacus, Barger, Dreyer & Kern, Corpus Christi; Thomas M. Bullion III, Germer Gertz, Austin; Mark Cooper and Larry D. Warren, Ball & Weed, San Antonio; Joe Hernandez, McAllen; Charles W. Lyman, Barker Lyman, Houston; H. Allen Pennington Jr., Pennington Hill, Fort Worth; Robert L. Ramey and Jill D. Schein, Ramey & Chandler, Houston; Sofia A. Ramon, Atlas & Hall, McAllen; Francis I. Spagnoletti, Spagnoletti & Co., Houston; Kenneth Tekell, Tekell, Book, Matthews & Limmer, Houston; Jason Tomlin, Fort Worth.