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$80 million dollar settlement for Hurricane Rita Bus Fire Litigation global settlement

The approach of Hurricane Rita prompted a mass evacuation of the Houston area in September 2005. Part of the evacuation were elderly patients from a nursing home facility in Bellaire, Texas. The elderly patients were being transported in MCI Model EL3 bus. During the course of the long trip to Dallas, the vehicle got a flat tire. The flat was changed by K&S Tire. The driver, Juan Robles, restarted the journey but was flagged down by a motorist to tell him that the rear right tag axle assembly of the bus was glowing red hot. Robles pulled to the side of the road. The heat generated by the locked up metal parts of the tag axle assembly caused the tire to catch on fire. The smoke from the tire fire quickly entered into the cabin of the bus where the elderly passengers were seated. The smoke from the tire fire severely hampered rescue efforts. The fire entered the cabin of the coach and caused 23 fatalities.

Families of the deceased residents and injured survivors filed suit against several entities over the course of the litigation. The litigation was consolidated in Hidalgo County, Texas and the Honorable Rose Reyna was appointed the MDL judge. The families were represented by a consortium of attorneys. The [email protected] from the law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend was appointed on the Plaintiffs Liaison/Steering Committee.

In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined the probable cause of the accident was insufficient lubrication of a rear axle, which overheated and caused a fire in the wheel well that quickly filled the 1998 bus with flames and heavy smoke. The NTSB investigation presumed that the lack of lubrication was due to poor maintenance.

By agreement of the parties, our case was given the first trial setting in September 2009.

After years of litigation, after reviewing several hundred thousand documents and more than 200 depositions, settlements totaling $80 million dollars have been reached for the families of those victims of the tragedy. Companies that settled include: Motor Coach Industries (MCI), the bus manufacturer; ArvinMeritor Inc., the designer of the axle and rear wheel assembly; SKF Industries, a component maker; Global Charter, which was operating as the bus broker, The Bus Bank; Global Limo, the bus operator; Valley Volvo, which serviced the bus shortly before the trip to Houston; K&S Towing, which changed a tire in the wheel area where the fire began, just hours before it erupted.

The firm case is still set for trial on September 14, 2009 against the remaining defendants.

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  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

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    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

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