Jury selected in trial over bus fatality

Officers from the Lawrence Police Department investigate the scene of an injury accident at 15th and Iowa streets involving the Cat Tracker bus. John Green was fatally injured and another seriously injured in the accident on Saturday, November 18, 2006.

Attorneys said it will be a tough task. Twelve jurors and one alternate were selected Tuesday afternoon, after a day of questioning, to hear evidence in the civil trial stemming from the November 2006 fatality accident involving the Cat Tracker fan bus.

Samantha Green, the widow of John Green, filed the lawsuit on behalf of her husband who was killed when he was standing atop the double-decker bus and struck the overpass at Irving Hill Road and Iowa Street.

Another man was critically injured but survived.

The plaintiff is claiming Briggs Auto Group of Manhattan is responsible for putting an unsafe vehicle on the road.

Court documents filed in the case indicate that Briggs purchased a yellow school bus in 2003 and modified the vehicle into the Cat Tracker II.

Briggs Auto Group did not own the bus at the time of the Nov. 18, 2006, accident, but Samantha Green’s attorney, James Thompson, told potential jurors Tuesday morning that they believe the business was responsible for putting a defective vehicle on the road.

“One of the things we’re claiming is that it wasn’t right,” Thompson said. “It was defective in the design, construction, modification and sale.”

Thompson spent much of Tuesday questioning potential jurors about their knowledge of the accident and whether they know any of the parties involved in the wrongful death suit.

Several prospective jurors admitted they had driven by the accident scene the morning of the Kansas University-Kansas State football game. One woman admitted she had seen the bus prior to the accident and thought “it didn’t look quite right.”

Terry Iles, attorney for the defendant, said Briggs Auto Group gave the bus away as a birthday gift on Aug. 17, 2003, to Manhattan attorney Robert Pottroff, before the vehicle ever underwent any modifications.

“We believe that the Briggs organization was not involved in the manufacture or the design of this bus,” Iles said.

Originally, there were close to a dozen defendants listed in the case, including Pottroff, as well as another plaintiff, Christian Orr, the man injured in the accident.

All other parties have reached out-of-court settlements, which are sealed as part of the court file.

Thompson told prospective jurors they are seeking a “substantial” amount of damages in the case, including compensation for the Greens’ daughter, who was born after the accident.

“There is a value to the counsel, guidance and instruction that a father gives a child,” Thompson said. “We will be seeking that.”

They are not seeking punitive damages.

Testimony in the case is scheduled to begin this morning.