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Archive for Monday, July 12, 2010

Defense witness says Cat Tracker passengers were warned of dangers; auto dealer says it doesn’t convert school buses

A lawyer testified today that while riding the bus, he told people to get down off the top and face forward if they weren't going to get off.

July 12, 2010, 1:26 p.m. Updated July 12, 2010, 8:32 p.m.

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Defendant's case begins in Cat Tracker trial

The defendants in the Cat Tracker trial called Topeka attorney LJ Leatherman, who says he told people on top of bus to get down, for their first witness. Enlarge video

It took just one day for attorneys for Briggs Auto Group to present their case in a civil trial that stems from the Cat Tracker fatality accident in Lawrence on Nov. 18, 2006.

Much of Monday’s testimony in Douglas County District Court focused on the issue at the center of the trial: Did Briggs Auto Group sell the 1988 school bus that eventually became the Cat Tracker, or was it given away as a gift?

Several witnesses for the defendant took the stand, saying they were present at a 50th birthday party for Manhattan attorney Bob Pottroff when Russell Briggs gave the school bus away as a gift.

Jurors saw a picture of a 1988 school bus with black spray paint that read “Happy 50th Bob.”

Briggs Auto Group general sales manager Scott Teenor testified that the auto dealership is not in the business of converting school buses and selling them.

“How many school buses are for sale on your lot?” attorney Larry Tyrl asked.

“Zero,” Teenor replied.

He also said it wasn’t unusual for Briggs to allow someone else to keep property on the lot.

The plaintiff, Samantha Green, whose husband, John Green, died in the accident, has claimed that Briggs Auto Group owned the bus while the conversion took place.

Attorney James Thompson argued that paperwork from the dealership shows the bus was involved in a sales transaction that took place on Feb. 9, 2005, where the bus was sold for $1,000 with Pottroff paying the sales taxes.

But witnesses for the dealership testified that giving the vehicle away as a gift was a unique situation, and they filled out the standard sales forms to show the transfer of ownership.

“The whole thing fell out of the normal process,” dealership owner Russ Briggs said. “There was no coming to the dealership and negotiating. It was, take it to his office and it was a gift.”

Earlier in the day, Topeka attorney LJ Leatherman, a member of the so-called “Cat Tracker Crew,” was the first defense witness called to the stand.

Leatherman was with the caravan that was traveling with the Cat Tracker when two people riding on the upper deck struck an overpass on Iowa Street.

John Green, 27, was killed almost instantly. Another passenger, Chris Orr, who was 34 at the time, suffered critical injuries but survived.

Families of both men filed a lawsuit against the owners, operators and manufacturers of the modified fan bus. All of the parties settled out of court, except Briggs Auto Group.

Green’s attorneys argue that Briggs purchased the original school bus that eventually was transformed into the Cat Tracker II, putting a defective and dangerous vehicle on the road.

Leatherman testified that he saw passengers on the top deck of the bus, when the vehicle made a stop at the Miller Mart at Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa Drive on its way to the Kansas University vs. Kansas State University football game.

He said he issued repeated warnings to them to get down.

“I said, ‘Look guys, you can’t be up there because stuff is a lot lower than it looks,’” Leatherman testified. “It’s not safe, and you need to get down. But if you’re not going to listen to me, at least make sure you are always looking forward.”

The defense attorneys rested their case Monday.

The judge ordered jurors to return to court at 10 a.m. Tuesday to hear closing arguments in the case. They will then begin their deliberations.

Comments

chevy 3 years, 8 months ago

chevy (anonymous) replies… For all concerned. Please respect the fact that these are human beings with feelings. Mrs. Green has to live with the fact that she will never see her husband again. Her child will never meet her father. Her husband was a kind and intelligent man. Hopefully John Green's family will never read any of these blogs. No one was drunk. Both the Cat Tracker 1 & II were a giant moving accident waiting to happen throughout their existence. There were so many people at fault it is amazing. Where do you begin? As those who testified it was the history of the Cat Tracker to drive to the city limits of the opposing team. Drive into that city loud and proud screaming Wild Cat Pride. People of all levels of intelligence rode this bus both inside (which also was not safe) and on the top into these towns. All of the people involved with this bus were irresponsible from its inception including Briggs. Each and every person involved with the Cat Tracker has John Green's blood on their hands. No one has even mentioned the fact that many of the people on the bus have post traumatic syndrome, even the EMT's, etc. Have you ever trusted someone you should not have? Most likely. Have you ever blown through a yellow/red light? Lets just agree that we all have done something that was not safe at one time or another. The Cat Tracker was not safe from the beginning to its end.

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Agnostick 3 years, 9 months ago

From page 32 of the link I supplied in my last post:


(i) Certain transfers of motor vehicles or trailers are not sales, as defined in paragraph (f)(1), and shall not be taxed. These include name changes, transfers by gift, and certain transfers made by operation of law. The following rules shall apply to these transfers.

(1) A transfer shall be presumed to be a gift when the transferee is the spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, child, grandmother or grandfather, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew of the transferor and money is not exchanged for the vehicle. A gift shall also be presumed when these relatives trade or exchange vehicles and money is not exchanged as part of the trade or exchange. However, if money is exchanged for the vehicle, the transfer shall be taxable, unless the sale is exempted as set forth in subsection (h).

(2) A vehicle transfer by gift is not a sale and shall not be taxed. To qualify as a gift, the vehicle shall be given without any consideration and with an intention on the part of the donor that the transfer is a gift. When the relationship of the parties is not one of the relationships set forth above in paragraph (i)(1), the transferee claiming the transfer is a gift shall submit proof of this claim to the satisfaction of the county treasurer or director of taxation.


Is/was Bob Pottroff "the spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, child, grandmother or grandfather, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew" to/for Russell Briggs? If not, then something--a form, a letter, an affidavit--had to filed with or submitted to "the county treasurer or director of taxation" where the "gift" took place.

If a familial relationship did not exist, and no paperwork was filed with the county treasurer, then somebody had to pay taxes on this.

No doubt, the gift-giver at the Pottroff's party was "Russ Briggs, personal friend" ... rather than "Russ Briggs, auto dealer."

I suspect there are dozens of transactions like this that go down every year--they're just never given a second look, because it's rare that one of these transcations is scrutinized so closely.

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Agnostick 3 years, 9 months ago

For those that claim they "know" vehicle sales tax laws in Kansas... and for those that admit they do not:

http://www.ksrevenue.org/pdf/forms/pub1526.pdf (pdf file)

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SluggerDog 3 years, 9 months ago

They really should sue the University of Kansas for creating so much stupidity that those two obviously sucked in too much of! Rock Chalk CHICKENhawk!

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listentome 3 years, 9 months ago

thebigspoon call the state of Kansas and ask them if a dealer or a business can give a vehicle away. trust me I know the answer to that question bigspoon. and for the record i do know what i am talking about get a job

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musbhiorlo 3 years, 9 months ago

i'm surprised they aren't going after the liquor store(s) that sold them the booze that made their judgment so bad that they forgot to wear seat belts, which is the law here in KS.

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listentome 3 years, 9 months ago

a dealer can not give a vehicle away they can sell it for a price and they have to submit a sales tax receipt to the state of kansas for the transacation. example when a company gives a vehicle to a retiring person for years of service they have to pay sales tax on the vehicle. CAN NOT GIVE A VEHICLE TO A PERSON AS A GIFT IF YOUR A DEALER OR A COMPANY. You have to pay sales tax. Briggs stated they did not convert the bus they new owner did it. get all the facts before u jump into sometime and take sides

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listentome 3 years, 9 months ago

Ok listen to me, if people would do there home work they would of find out the law says sold as is, and when the new buyer converted the bus into the CAT TRACKER they would of had to have it inspected by the KHP office, so if they passed it then the state of Kansas put a vehicle on the road. I think people are just sue happy in America, when does this end??? I think some one should pay but stop look and listen and ask why am I here and doing this to myself and my family... let it go move on and let the man rest in piece.

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yankeevet 3 years, 9 months ago

Victims fault; case dismissed; and Briggs should counter sue them.............

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yankeevet 3 years, 9 months ago

Victims fault; case dismissed; and Briggs should counter sue them.............

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Jimbecile 3 years, 9 months ago

These peanuts taste like almonds.

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ralphralph 3 years, 9 months ago

Lots of people at fault here ... most notably the dead plaintiff and the already-settled-and-paid-up driver. The previous owner? .... looks like a greed-driven stretch.

How embarrassing to be dumb enough to get killed standing up on a bus as it goes under a bridge, then have your family parade your stupidity through the courts trying to claim someone else may have been nearly as drunk or stupid as the dead guy.

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cheeseburger 3 years, 9 months ago

Hey Janet - try looking at your sixth paragraph. Manufactures should be manufacturers, and there you go again referring to this as a double-decker bus instead of a modified school bus. Is it your intention to be misleading?

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CHEEZIT 3 years, 9 months ago

Verizon, A T & T etc.... all made modification's to home phones. Now thousands of people are getting killed by people using these mobile phones in their cars. Does that mean these companies are getting sued? Isn't that the same reasoning???

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edjayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

It will be interesting how this plays out. I hope the jury doesn't buy that emotional crap presented by the plaintiff.

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Joe Blackford II 3 years, 9 months ago

So my Suzuki Samurai has a sticker:

WARNING: Do not remove or modify any structural component surrounding the occupant area of this vehicle. Removal or modification of these components can result in reduced occupant protection in the event of an accident.

Briggs Suzuki closed AFTER Samurai sales ended (1995). Briggs JEEP closed thanks to Chrysler (I'm guessing JEEPs have such a sticker, too?).

No mention in this lawsuit that Pottroff needed a driver, called an old friend (whose DUI convictions made him ineligible for CDL necessary to LEGALLY drive the Bozos on this Bus). Guess BP & driver settled out of court, eh?

KS Dept. of Revenue should be able to determine who owned BozoBus when it was modified AND when BP got it.

When will we hear what Briggs Auto Group offered out of court? A low mileage Purple Pinto convertible?

A HORNET from Manhattan

NOTE: My apologies if LJWorld has informed us of driver's lack of CDL. Manhattan Mercury only permits viewing of a couple of sentences of an article, without subscription. Which I cashed in when NBAF propaganda was all the front page news. You Jayhawks do know the Anthrax Mailers bosses (ret. Cols. Franz, Jaax & Jaax, USAMRIID) are behind NBAF? Or that AD Bob Krause, aka "$3 million-under-the-table-Bob," negotiated with KS Bioscience Authority for NBAF seed money AND that Col. Franz is a KBA charter member? Which way does the Kaw flow, anyway?

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thebigspoon 3 years, 9 months ago

So, I am assuming from your post, Ag, that you agree that this suit should never have been brought against Briggs, as personal responsibility by both the driver and the riders was absent. That has been my point from the start.

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Agnostick 3 years, 9 months ago

I think OldEnuf2BYurDad nailed it @ 2:16pm, in referencing school bus drivers that refuse to put the bus in gear when kids are causing problems. Either the Cat Tracker bus driver or the driver's supervisor should've stood outside the bus where every passenger could hear and see them. Dangle the keys at arm's length ... "See these keys? These will not be used to start the bus and get us where we need to go, until certain people start following the rules of the road. Getting off the roof of a moving vehicle would be a good start..." Peer pressure from other passengers would've nipped it in the bud in less than a minute.

That's assuming, of course, that appearances, public perception etc. didn't take a back seat to safety on the Cat Tracker. As someone else pointed out, they probably didn't.

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LJ Whirled 3 years, 9 months ago

Leatherman is a sharp cookie and a straight shooter (sorry for the cliche's, but the apply). If he said he warned them and they wouldn't listen, then he warned them and they wouldn't listen.

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Agnostick 3 years, 9 months ago

thebigspoon (anonymous) writes…

"The only person who could possibly assign guilt to Briggs is the same goofball who awarded that nut in the McDonald's coffee case all that money."


ksjayhawk74 beat me to it, but I think the world could really use a corollary to Godwin's Law... we could call it "Liebeck's Law." To paraphrase:

"As an online discussion of a legal issue grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving 'Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants' (aka 'the McDonald's Hot Coffee Lawsuit') approaches 1."

Another good site detailing facts, rather than urban legend, about that case:

http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm

btw, bigspoon, I'm curious about where you and your compadres were frantically discussing this breaking legal story back in 1994. Prodigy? Compuserve? AOHell? ;)

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Healthcare_Moocher 3 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Gootsie 3 years, 9 months ago

Have they brought witnesses forward from other locations where the Cat Tracker bus had people standing on the top as they approached the stadium?

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BobtheBuilder 3 years, 9 months ago

I get so sick and tired of Old Enough to be your DAD knowing everything. He needs to shut his trap. Get a life, you LOSER!!!!!!!!!!!

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1029 3 years, 9 months ago

blah, blah, blah.... drunken fool isn't paying attention to what's around him, gets himself killed, family sees an opportunity to make some money off of it....blah, blah, blah.....

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coldplay 3 years, 9 months ago

What was the BAC of the guy who died?

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OldEnuf2BYurDad 3 years, 9 months ago

It is somewhat hard to believe that grown people would stand on that platform while the bus was traveling at 40 mph. They'd be alive if they had been sober and were using common sense.

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red_devil 3 years, 9 months ago

Very hard to believe this guy was warning people to get down. Sounds like an obvious defense.."We tried to get them to come down but they wouldn't listen." He was probably acting like an idiot just like the rest of them. The whole purpose of that bus was to get attention...they pretty much said as much.

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thebigspoon 3 years, 9 months ago

What does it matter who owned it? The liability for the horrible accident still must fall on the victim. Even if Briggs owned the bus--which he did not--and even if the victim ignored the warnings of the people who warned him--which he apparently did--and even if the res of the defendants have already settled--which they have--the guy still, in the end, had a responsibility to himself and his family to be careful that he did not allow himself to come to harm. How is this an actionable suit against Briggs?

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BigDog 3 years, 9 months ago

In a twist of irony, LJ Leatherman happens to be a personal injury, wrongful death and product liability attorney.

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1983Hawk 3 years, 9 months ago

IIRC, Potroff's LLC owned the bus at the time of the accident, so I'm guessing he is the one responsible for the modifications. I also seem to recall that the LLC was a tax-delinquent entity that hadn't bothered to pay corporation franchise taxes for the previous three years.

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OldEnuf2BYurDad 3 years, 9 months ago

Warned by a civilian, not by the company or it's driver. Just a guy yelling "Hey, that looks unsafe."

It looks like the spin is that the bus was on Briggs' lot, but that Briggs never took ownership of it, so it was never Briggs' fault that it was a dangerous vehicle. That seems like a convincing arguement, but at some point they will have to do some finger-pointing: who exactly DID modify the bus?

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broddie 3 years, 9 months ago

they were warned twice? And still didn't get down? CASE DISMISSED

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