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Parents of boy killed at bus stop file suit

February 25, 2002|By SARAH MULLIN

The parents of a Falling Waters, W.Va., teenager killed a year ago as he crossed U.S. 11 to his school bus stop have filed a civil suit against five defendants, including the Berkeley County Board of Education.

The suit brought by Tina and Michael McDaniel, parents of 13-year-old Brandon McDaniel, alleges the Board of Education was negligent, contributing to the boy's death. The allegation is based in part on the McDaniels' claim that the board did not comply with their request to move the bus stop to a safer location, said Paul Taylor, the Martinsburg attorney representing the family.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Berkeley County Circuit Court, also names as defendants Chester Bankes, the driver of the pickup truck that hit Brandon; bus driver Joyce Butts; Larry Carte, director of transportation for Berkeley County Schools; and Bankes' insurance company, Erie Insurance Group.

The suit accuses Bankes of failing to keep a lookout to avoid hitting school-age children, failing to keep an assured clear distance ahead, failing to take steps to avoid striking the boy and negligence in the operation of his vehicle.

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Carte and Butts are accused in the suit of negligence in the operation of school bus #258 and of having reason to know the bus stop was unsafe and taking no action to prevent the accident, contributing to the boy's death.

The suit accuses Erie Insurance Group of "negligent and/or intentional spoliation of evidence" for allowing repairs to be made to Bankes' vehicle before the family's attorney could have it inspected by an accident reconstructionist.

Bankes and representatives of the Board of Education and the insurance company declined to comment on the suit. Butts could not be reached.

West Virginia State Police investigated the accident and found no driver error or fault. Taylor said the family plans to contest that finding.

The suit, which cites "loss of consortium" and "infliction of emotional distress," does not give a specific amount of compensation being sought, Taylor said. The family is seeking compensation for, among other things, attorney's fees, punitive damages, interest and "past, present, and future medical expenses suffered by Plaintiffs."

The suit states that Brandon, who was a student at Hedgesville (W.Va.) Middle School, lived along U.S. 11 and caught the bus at 6:30 a.m. He had to cross the highway about 150 feet north of his family's house in order to get on the bus.

"It is absolutely improper to ask a 13-year-old to walk across U.S. 11," Taylor said.

The case will be ready for trial by February of next year, according to the suit.

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