Family Sues HISD, Bus Manufacturer Over Fatal School Bus Crash

Update 11/17/2015 at 4:30 p.m.: HISD has announced that all new school buses purchased by the district will have three-point seat belts, effective immediately. 

The family of a 17-year old student killed in September's fatal school bus crash filed a lawsuit today alleging negligence by Houston Independent School District and the manufacturer of the bus, International Truck and Engine Corporation. 

On the morning of September 15, a bus carrying four students bound for HISD's Furr High School was struck by a Buick LeSabre on Loop 610, careened off the overpass and crashed onto Telephone Road below, injuring two students and the driver and killing 14-year old Janiecia Chatman and 17-year old Maliya Johnson. Chatman died at Memorial Hermann Hospital shortly after the accident and Johnson died at the scene. 

In a lawsuit filed this morning, Johnson's mother, Melody, alleged the HISD bus driver was traveling too fast and did not react properly when the Buick veered into the bus, and that the bus manufacturer failed to conduct adequate safety testing and provided essentially ineffective seat belts. Johnson is represented by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who has handled a number of high-profile cases including, most recently, defending Rick Perry after the former Governor was indicted on abuse of power charges. 

"The vehicle industry has known for decades that 3-point seatbelts are inherently safer than only lap belts and that they help to prevent ejection better," the lawsuit says. "Yet, the subject bus only had lap belts and not 3-point seat belts, making the bus defective and unreasonably dangerous."

In an email, a spokesperson for Navistar, which controls International Truck and Engine Corporation as a subsidiary, declined to comment, citing a policy not to discuss pending litigation. A spokesperson for HISD also declined to comment, citing a similar policy. 

Here's the lawsuit in full:

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Leif Reigstad