- Associated Press - Friday, June 1, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Dallas appeals court has upheld a $9.3 million verdict against the Choctaw Nation after finding the southern Oklahoma tribe liable for a charter bus crash that killed two elderly passengers.

The Court of Appeals for Texas’ 5th District unanimously dismissed the tribe’s appeal of a 2016 Dallas County ruling saying it was liable for the deaths of Alice Stanley and Paula Hahn, the Oklahoman reported .

“The appellate court was correct in affirming the jury’s verdict in this horrifying crash,” said Frank Branson, an attorney for Stanley’s estate and children.

The bus was traveling to the tribe’s casino in Durant, Oklahoma, when it crashed in Irving, Texas. Many of the issues the Choctaw Nation raised revolve around whether the tribe is liable for the negligence of the bus operators.

Group organizer Sue Taylor was not a tribal employee but had signed an agreement with the tribe acknowledging she wouldn’t distract the driver.

Taylor had argued with driver Loyd Rieve on the morning of the crash about whether to drive on a turnpike, according to court records. A jury said that distraction led to the crash, and found the tribe, Rieve and bus company Cardinal to be liable.

The tribe alleged in its appeal that bus operation was completely in Cardinal’s control, Rieve wasn’t a borrowed employee, Taylor didn’t act as an agent of the tribe and also didn’t interfere with the driving. The appeals court rejected those arguments Tuesday.

“Casino operators cannot escape responsibility when they negotiate bus contracts based on the absolute lowest bid without considering the safety of their passengers,” Branson said.

Choctaw Nation associate general counsel Brad Mallett said the tribe is considering its options after the appeals court ruling.


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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