$36 Million in Bus Case

by Heygood Orr and Pearson

Heygood, Orr & Pearson attorney Eric D. Pearson represented Plaintiffs Don and Joan Stout in their lawsuit against a Texas bus company to recover damages for the life-altering injuries sustained by their son, Nick, when a bus on its way to church camp crashed in East Texas in June 2002.  The horrific crash killed four teenagers and injured dozens of others, including Nick Stout, who suffered permanent brain damage and other disabling injuries.

Evidence showed that the driver of the bus, Ernest Carter, was under the influence of cocaine and valium at the time of the crash.  He was also suffering from fatigue due to his failure to adhere to government regulations relating to maximum hours and minimum rest periods.  The evidence also showed that Defendant Eric Rockmore, owner of Discovery Tours, falsified documents to cover up Carter’s rules violations.

Following a three week trial, the jury in the 14th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded total damages of nearly $71 million, including $36 million to the Stout family.

In a separate but related proceeding, Pearson represented the Stout family in their lawsuit against Republic Western Insurance Company, Rockmore’s insurer.  In that suit, Republic Western sought a declaratory judgment that its insurance policy had been cancelled and that Rockmore’s failure to list Ernest Carter as a driver defeated coverage even if the policy has not been cancelled.  Pearson argued that the cancellation of the policy was improper and untimely and that the failure to identify Carter did not limit the policy’s coverage.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ultimately agreed with Pearson’s position, holding that Republic Westerm’s policy was in effect at the time of the accident and provided $5 million in insurance coverage to Rockmore.  See Republic Western Ins. Co. v. Rockmore, No. 3-02-CV-1569-K, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 327 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 10, 2005).  The Stout family ultimately settled with Rockmore, Republic Western and several other defendants.