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Fatal bus accident case revived after lower-court ruling vacated

A wrongful death personal injury case that Greyhound Lines Inc. thought it had won in a California superior court was given new life and a green light to proceed late last month when a state appellate court reversed the lower court's ruling that had favored the national bus company.

Some of our readers might well recall the tragic bus accident that killed 11 passengers and injured 21 others in October 2008, when an apparently exhausted bus driver lost control of his vehicle, which crashed in a drainage ditch. The crash occurred in northern California.

Greyhound had prevailed in the lower court pursuant to the judge's order granting the company's motion for summary judgment (a motion granted when no material facts are at issue in a case and, consequently, a defendant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law).

The lower court narrowly construed the only issue in the case as being whether Greyhound should have installed seat belts on the bus. The court found that no such duty existed, given that no manufacturer in the United States offered belts when Greyhound bought the bus or in the following years when the company had control over the vehicle. At the time of the crash, the bus was owned by another party, with Greyhound having no legal interest in it.

In a unanimous ruling, the appellate court held that the lower court erred by failing to address additional claims brought by the plaintiffs relating to other alleged safety deficiencies. Plaintiffs had argued that there were no air bags on the bus and inadequate written warnings regarding their absence. The appellate justices ruled that the court of first instance erred by not having Greyhound respond to those and other enumerated claims.

The case thus goes on, with the grant of summary judgment in Greyhound's favor being vacated.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Greyhound faces wrongful death lawsuit in 2008 Colusa crash," Denny Walsh, July 23, 2015

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