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Archive for Thursday, July 8, 2010

Expert witness says Cat Tracker had several defects that led to fatal accident on Iowa Street

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.

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.

July 8, 2010, 1:36 p.m. Updated July 8, 2010, 3:36 p.m.

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Fan bus had safety defects

The Cat Tracker bus associated with K-State fans has several safety defects, according to reports from an ongoing civil trial. A man died in 2006 while riding the bus in Lawrence. Enlarge video

The Cat Tracker bus that 27-year-old John Green was riding when his head struck an overpass had several design features that were unsafe, according to testimony in the second day of a civil trial stemming from the fatal accident in 2006.

The testimony came from Ned Einstein, who testified as an expert witness Thursday morning for the plaintiff’s side in Douglas County District Court. He is president of Transportation Alternatives, a New York City consulting firm involved in a variety of aspects of mass transit.

Einstein identified design features of the bus as it existed in October 2004. Plaintiff’s attorneys had earlier called a vehicle title inspector who created a report showing a Briggs Auto Group-owned entity had owned the Cat Tracker bus at that time.

Among the unsafe features Einstein identified:

• The “most critical” of the problems was that modifications were made to a school bus chassis, rather than to a bus with a lower-floor chassis. Einstein said such buses — like some transit buses — were widely available for purchase at the time. If a lower-floor chassis bus were modified, it could have been three feet lower in height, Einstein said.

“If this were built on a lower chassis, even with all the other defects, this accident would never have happened,” he said.

• A door to the back deck of the bus was not locked. Einstein said this allowed passengers to move to the back deck of the bus at will.

• On the open-air back deck of the bus, a ladder provided easy access to the roof deck of the bus, Einstein said. He said that ladder should have been secured away while the bus was in motion.

Deadly consequences

Green and another man, Chris Orr, were struck by the Irving Hill Road overpass over Iowa Street while standing on the roof deck of the Cat Tracker bus as it traveled to a Kansas University-Kansas State University football game on Nov. 18, 2006. Green died instantly and was forced over the railing onto the lower deck of the bus. Orr was critically injured.

Green’s widow, Samantha Green, filed suit against nearly a dozen defendants, including the owners, operators and manufacturers of the bus. All but one — Briggs Auto Group of Manhattan — have settled out of court.

An engineering expert called by the plaintiff’s attorneys on Thursday placed the speed of the bus between about 20 to 30 mph at various times as it approached the overpass.

The expert, Steven Schorr, an engineer at DJS Associates in Pennsylvania, said that if John Green, who was 6-foot-1-inch tall, had been standing straight at his full height while on the roof deck, he would have been 10 inches higher than the 15-foot high overpass.

Attorneys for Briggs Auto Group peppered Einstein’s testimony with objections and other questions, which were settled in bench conferences with the judge. The witness, however, was allowed to present his opinions on a range of topics, including whether the seller of the vehicle had a responsibility to ensure its safety.

“The seller has a duty to safeguard the public if design characteristics of the vehicle present a safety issue,” Einstein said.

Other issues

In cross-examination, defense attorney Larry Tyrl asked about Einstein’s compensation from the plaintiff’s side, which paid about $50,000 to Einstein and an associated billing company, according to invoices. Tyrl also questioned Einstein’s education, including a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning.

Tyrl also asked about a number of others responsible for things Einstein concluded were wrong with the bus.

Einstein agreed that others were at least partially responsible for many of the issues, including people like Robert Pottroff, who owned the bus in November 2006.

Among the witnesses who took the stand late Thursday afternoon, a Briggs Auto Group employee testified about the detailed paperwork regarding the sale and titling of the 1988 bus.

Connie Kipp confirmed the paperwork showed the Manhattan auto dealer owned the bus until Oct. 22, 2004. In opening statements, Tyrl told jurors the bus had been given away as a gift to Pottroff as a 50th birthday gift on Aug. 17, 2003.

Also, jurors watched a videotaped deposition from Steve Johnson, a Lawrence resident who often rode the Cat Tracker to away Kansas State University football games.

Johnson said he had been on the bus on multiple trips to Columbia, Mo., Lincoln, Neb. and Ames, Iowa, and that it was customary to ride on the top level through the streets of an opposing team’s hometown. Johnson described on each trip a “duck man” was appointed to warn others about overhead obstacles. Johnson said every time he’d been on the bus, he had heard someone shout, “duck.”

Testimony in the case resumes this morning.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 9 months ago

Judging from the posts in here, and assuming they are representative of the jury, it sure looks like Briggs is going to win the case. But then, he did expect to, and I believe that's why he refused to settle out of court.

I think it only takes only one firm holdout of the jury of twelve for the defendant to be found not liable, right?

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domino 3 years, 9 months ago

As a child, did your mom ever tell you some verson of "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?" We were taught to take care of and think for ourselves. My heart breaks for this widow and little girl who will grow up without her daddy. It isn't their fault he is gone, however, neither do I think that it is this companies or anyone elses fault other than the man who died.

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rgh 3 years, 9 months ago

As a KU fan I don't have a problem with the bus. The driver should have had the only key to unlock the back door and the riders should have signed a waiver not be on top at any time while the bus was in motion. I am very very sorry for this tragic accident for them and their families but this suit shouldn't hold merit since grown men choose to go on top while the bus was in motion and knew that even if there wasn't a bridge, they could have fallen if they were in an accident or had to swerve. God bless their families who have to life without a husband, father, uncle, cousin, etc., etc.

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stash 3 years, 9 months ago

this was a commercial vehicle with defects - the general public was invited on board - hence the liability.

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none2 3 years, 9 months ago

I cannot believe the stupidity of posters who think that the people on the roof are not responsible for their actions. Each and every person who was on that roof were adults who CHOSE to get up there, CHOSE to drink, CHOSE to be more interested in flipping off passing KU fans than paying attention to the road.

What if there had been no bridge there. Lets say that for some reason a child had darted into the road and the bus driver had to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the child. Lets say the guys fell off the roof and died either from the fall or from getting ran over by passing cars?

What if lightening struck the top of the bus? What if the bus hit one of Lawrence's famous pot holes and some of them fell off?

The fact remains that there are umpteen scenarios that could have happened. It would have been prudent for the bus driver to remove the ladder while in motion. He didn't, but again these were ADULTS -- not school children who need monitoring. The bottom line is that they had no business climbing up there and standing on the top of a moving vehicle.

Even if they had been forced at gun point to be up there while the bus is moving, they still had the ability to sit down just like someone in the back of a truck can choose to sit down in the bed if they have any common sense.

This was a very sad tragedy, but adults are supposed to be responsible for their own actions.

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fan4kufootball 3 years, 9 months ago

It sounds like to me that the bus upper deck was designed for parked partying or tailgating - there was not any seats up there for "in-motion" transporting of people. So the design of the bus should not even be in question. Its more the responsibility of the bus operator and the people on the bus making common sense decisions. I think when the defense gets to take the stand this type of things will be brought out in court.

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parrotuya 3 years, 9 months ago

WAAAA!. This is clearly a case of user error.

Driver: watch out for low bridges and don't drink and drive!

DOWn, baby, DOWn & SPILL, baby, SPILL!

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Steve Bunch 3 years, 9 months ago

If the duck man failed to quack, I think he should be held accountable, too.

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storm 3 years, 9 months ago

Walking around on top of a bus? Better call Saul!

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm scared to death to drive my two ton 5 star crash rated vehicle in town on game days, so I stay at home if at all possible. There are to many drunks, and to many crazy drivers out there!

I can't even imagine riding on top of a bus like the cat tracker! And - not even a seat belt!

But, everyone's fears are colored by thier own experiences. Once, when I was quite young, I was riding on the top of a hay stack that was being hauled down a country road.

At the very last possible split second, I saw it coming - a high tension electric wire was crossing the road directly ahead of me. I ducked barely in time, and heard the strangest whistling sound as it passed by, only inches from my head.

Ever since that moment, I've been very aware of the unexpected that can happen when you are riding way up in the air, and I avoided it whenever possible after that.

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Mike George 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't see any posts where anyone has come out and said this, but I think all of you folks know that the reason they are in court with Briggs is that Briggs has deep pockets. You only need to watch the liability lawyers advertise on TV to know that they go where the rewards are potentially the greatest.

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Mike George 3 years, 9 months ago

I read in the other story that several of the folks who had spent time on top of the bus stated that they might have had a few beers earlier in the day. My wife and I witnessed beer cans being kicked off that deck at 23rd & Iowa as we waited to turn left behind the bus that day, and I can state that there was still constant beer drinking going on up top - any attempts to downplay that activity are dishonest at best.

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KEITHMILES05 3 years, 9 months ago

There was a "duck" man who yelled "duck".............sorry, but that is pretty funny. So,if the person yelling "duck" did in fact yell that and the deceased and injured failed to heed the command then whose fault is it?

I find it very disturbing the family is not acknowleding they have a huge share of responsibility in this accident. To point blame at others while your own actions contribute is hard to understand.

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Keith Richards 3 years, 9 months ago

Prosecution expert is paid 50,000 dollars to provide his testimony. He has a bachelors in english and a masters in urban planning. WOW!

They could have called me as an expert witness. I would have charged half and I would say my bachelors in engineering, and Phd in chemistry would be just as good of an educational background.

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catfishturkeyhunter 3 years, 9 months ago

You know, its a terrible thing that happened to the man who got killed. If anyone is to blame it would be the cop who saw that bus pass by with people on top of it and didnt do anything. As previosly mentioned, it is illegal to ride in the back of a pick up, so why wouldn't it be to to ride on top of a bus. Way I see it, it was a terrible accident. Let it go.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 9 months ago

chorus from "Low Bridge" By Thomas S. Allen

Low bridge, everybody down Low bridge for we're coming to a town And you'll always know your neighbor And you'll always know your pal If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.....

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InspectorJo 3 years, 9 months ago

Excellent example BigAl. People must use common sense!

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beobachter 3 years, 9 months ago

expert witness = a liar that tells you what point you are trying to prove. the real experts don't get paid to testify. they have a real job.

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Eride 3 years, 9 months ago

Seems like almost all of that is due to operator errors not actual flaws in the design. Operator shouldn't have let people up there, operator should have locked door, operator shouldn't have overloaded bus. Operator should have kicked the drunk idiots off the bus because they were acting in a dangerous manner.

Briggs wasn't operating the bus or had any ownership interest correct?

Money grab suit. Sorry you got injured or your relative got killed but they were standing on top of a moving bus... seriously... this is darwinism at work.

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Scruggsy 3 years, 9 months ago

Another ridiculous case clogging up the system and wasting $$$. The life insurance should be all that applies. Anyone who made the stupid decision to get up there and not even look for a bridge, well, that's what can happen... The prior owners of the bus can not have any liability in this whatsoever in my opinion.

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Iam Tired 3 years, 9 months ago

The owners of the bus should sue the people that were riding on top of it. Their irresponsible actions have caused a significant loss of income to the current owners. Cat fans should create a class action suit against the men/estates who stupidly rode on top of a moving bus causing the loss of use to future users.

There may have been some liability by the driver and/or owners; but, his lawsuit is simply searching for deep pockets.

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Mike George 3 years, 9 months ago

.....as the light turned GREEN and.......

apologies about the previous error

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stash 3 years, 9 months ago

a preponderence of the evidence is the judiciary requirement for guilt in this case.

partial liability will be in the manufacture of an unsafe vehicle sold for public use. after all it was a bus not a single passenger vehicle.

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Mike George 3 years, 9 months ago

My comment isn't meant to address whether the bus owner or builder were at fault. I can only speak to the state of responsibility of those on top of the bus. My wife and I were behind the bus at 23rd and Iowa, waiting for the light to turn left, and there were four gentlemen on top of the bus at that time, all drinking and kicking beer cans off the deck. Someone drove alongside the bus and leaned out the window of their SUV and obviously made a derogatory comment about the situation or KSU - who knows - this was met with an immediate reaction of everyone on top flipping the other driver off and shouting insults about KU that we DID hear. They continued hoisting their beer cans, exposing their middle fingers and shouting as the light turned red and they drove around the corner, headed north toward the accident scene. We turned off on 21st and luckily missed the accident. My point is that the gentlemen on top at that time were working on getting more impaired, plus concentrating on things behind the bus, like KU fans they could wave at with single digits. Hardly a crew of careful passengers.

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bendover61 3 years, 9 months ago

The bus fit under the bridge, the idiot on top did not. End of story.

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ksjayhawk74 3 years, 9 months ago

Crazy that some many posters here think that a company should have no responsibilities for their actions...

If a company makes, sells or operates a vehicle that gets someone killed and someone else seriously injured because of it's design, then yes they are liable.

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frankfussman 3 years, 9 months ago

Of course, this accident would not have happened if the driver had turned east or west on 15th Street and avoided the bridge across Iowa altogether. He either did not know about the bridge, or didn't know someone was on the upper deck, or had other plans. Or didn't know the specifications of the bus.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 9 months ago

I've been reading all the articles, and maybe I missed something.

There's all this talk about who owned the bus when, but have there been any statements about who exactly did the modifications? A spokesman for Briggs Auto Group made the claim that Briggs did not do them, but that was it.

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day 3 years, 9 months ago

Posters keep refering to "sitting" on the top deck. If you look closely at some of the photos you will see that there aren't any seats up there at all. It is a giant open deck. It's designed for most if not all of the riders to climb up on during the tailgate party. You would have to be crazy to think riding down Iowa street at 40 mph up there is a good idea.

It seems to me the current owner, who has already settled out of court, could be in some trouble. The driver allowed people up there when he should have known that it was a bad idea.

On the other hand I don't see how Briggs could be held responsible for the new owner using the bus in a way it clearly wasn't intended for.

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calwt262 3 years, 9 months ago

Products liability has transformed quite a bit since 1985. In the movie Teenwolf Michael J. Fox was surfing on top of Stiles' "wolfmobile" as they rolled-up to a house party. Thank God Stiles was a partier and didn't excel in autobody class, otherwise Michael J. Fox may have gone the way of Brandon Lee.

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jehovah_bob 3 years, 9 months ago

It does not make you an expert just because your name is Einstein.

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fan4kufootball 3 years, 9 months ago

I believe it is only illegal for children under a certain age to ride in the back of a pick up which is stupid since it is now illegal to drive a vehicle without a seatbelt.

I think people need to have some degree of responsibility for themselves. This suing others for something you could have prevented yourself with a little common sense is getting ridiculous.

Yes - its hurts to lose someone we love and depended on and I can sympathize with that but this type of lawsuit has to stop.

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yourworstnightmare 3 years, 9 months ago

The defects were that it had a patio on the roof with a ladder up the the patio on the back.

Honestly, no one forced the people to sit on top while the bus was moving. This was clearly dangerous, and my guess is they were advised to not do it.

Even if they were not advised, this seems like a case of bad judgment on the part of the rider, a sane adult, and not the fault of Cat tracker. Clogging up the court system with a frivolous and unsupported lawsuit.

EMAW! Every mildcat a wanker!

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day 3 years, 9 months ago

Old Enuf:

There wasn't any problem with the design of the top deck itself at all. The bus DID fit under the bridge. It was the head of the victim, some two to three feet above the top of the deck railing that didn't fit.

A six foot tall man standing on the top of a semi trailer wouldn't have fit either. The question is did Briggs/the current owner design enough safety features into the bus to prevent, someone from getting up there while the bus was in motion. It seems to me that responsibility resides with the owner not the builder. If someone crawled on top of a semi truck and got scraped off on a bridge we wouldn't blame Peterbuilt.

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ivalueamerica 3 years, 9 months ago

I never understood the fear of holding someone accountable for making an usafe product.

Clearly there is no doubt that the drunk fool holds the MAJORITY of the blame for what happened, but crimeny folks, the bus accepted drunk fools and put them in an open top moving vehicle without any thought of the consequences.

The bus and the driver were not fully compliant with the law and made a bad situation worse.

That is why in cases like this they generally assign a percentage of blame.

I would imagine in this case the blame would go something like a 2-3 million dollar judgement for the accident with 80% blame going to the stupid drunk and 20% going to the bus company, leaving a $200,000 settlement to the estate.

IF that is the case, then the court does hold the man mostly respondible for his actions.

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beawolf 3 years, 9 months ago

If your going to allow passengers access to the upper deck you had better post warnings and/or block access when in transport. Neither of which occurred. How high or low the bus was is irrelevant. The bus was built/modified for this purpose. If this was not a modified bus and he climbed on top, was struck and killed, then you would have the "this bag is not a toy" argument.

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Kelly Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

If it is illegal to ride in the back of a moving pickup truck, wouldn't it also make sense that it's illegal to ride on the top level open-air deck of a modified school bus?

Does anyone know if there is a specific law to this effect?

It's really kinda scary that this lawsuit involves a defendant who didn't have ownership of the bus and hadn't for quite some time.

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bd 3 years, 9 months ago

Briggs has the most money so why not go after him!

The lawyers, Doctors and Liberals will distroy this country!

Tea anyone!

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macon47 3 years, 9 months ago

a sympathetic jury will open up the cash register the lawyers get all the bills the family ends up with nickles, dimes and pennies

we should not accept responsibily for our actions the world should protect us at thier cost it is the obama way

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musbhiorlo 3 years, 9 months ago

when you drink booze, accidents happen, plain and simple

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OldEnuf2BYurDad 3 years, 9 months ago

Sorry, but I'm with the witness on this. It would be an assumption I would make: this bus will "fit" under standard-height bridges. Semi trailers rarely have problems with bridges, so why would that bus?

And, no sign warning that the modifications were not sufficiently safe. I'm totally with the plaintiff on that.

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grammaddy 3 years, 9 months ago

I guess common sense really isn't all that common.

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bendover61 3 years, 9 months ago

The bridge builder had to know that defective buses would be going underneath the bridge, I say that they are at fault and the university since the bridge connects daisy hill with west campus. Also, if there had not been a game that day he may have survived, so both schools are at fault.

They have only begun to determine who is at fault.

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thebigspoon 3 years, 9 months ago

"The seller has a duty to safeguard the public if design characteristics of the vehicle present a safety issue,” Einstein said.

It seems to me that the witness should be enjoined form stating legal opinions. He was presented as an expert in vehicle construction, not an attorney or jury. Why was this testimony allowed, let alone reported? Looks as if Briggs is in trouble if the judge allows this type of thing to go on.

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calwt262 3 years, 9 months ago

I can't wait for the testimony of the defense's expert witness Mr. Mainway comparing the safety standards of the Cat Tracker to that of his well known products "Johnny Space Commander" and "Bag-o-broken glass".

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beobachter 3 years, 9 months ago

No one will accept personal responsibility, It is always someone else's fault they are stupid. Darwin theory at work, just narrowed the gene pool some.

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gphawk89 3 years, 9 months ago

"The bus had no posted warnings that told people not to be on the roof of the bus while it was moving."

"Please do not jump off this bridge to the rocks below." "Please do not stick a screwdriver in this outlet." "Please do not run through this plate glass window." "Please do not stick this pencil in your eye."

Where does it end?

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LJ Whirled 3 years, 9 months ago

"This Bag is NOT a Toy" mentality. We need an expert to tell us that if the bus was 3-feet shorter it would have been 3-feet shorter? That if you couldn't get on the roof, then you would be on the roof?

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