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Archive for Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jury finds Briggs Auto Group not liable in fatal Cat Tracker accident

The widow of the man killed on the bus will not receive damages from the car company.

July 13, 2010, 1:43 p.m. Updated July 13, 2010, 6:09 p.m.

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The jury in the civil trial stemming from a 2006 fatal accident involving the Cat Tracker fan bus has found Briggs Auto Group not liable.

“I’m extremely happy with the verdict,” Briggs Auto Group Chief Financial Officer Boyd Johnson said moments after the verdict was announced Tuesday afternoon in Douglas County District Court. “But the Briggs group is extremely sorry for the loss of John Green, and our heart goes out to Samantha Green and the little girl, Addison. It was a tragic accident and nothing can bring him back.”

Green, 27, was killed on Nov. 18, 2006, while standing atop the double-decker bus. His head struck an overpass on Iowa Street, as the bus was driving toward Memorial Stadium for a football game between Kansas University and Kansas State University.

His widow, Samantha Green, sued Briggs Auto Group, claiming the Manhattan automobile dealership put an unsafe vehicle on the road.

The trial boiled down to whether jurors believed the defendant’s assertion that Briggs gave a 1988 yellow school bus away as a gift in August 2003, well before any modifications were made. Ultimately, the jurors did believe the defendant.

“We do feel vindicated that we did give away a yellow school bus and had nothing to do with that after we gave the school bus away,” Johnson said. “Since the beginning of the trial, our name has been dragged through the mud, and at some point in time you need to stand up and fight for what you believe. We didn’t do anything wrong, and Russ Briggs has always stood up for what he believes. If we thought we had done something wrong, then we’d just admit to it.”

The plaintiff argued the vehicle was not a gift. James Thompson, attorney for Samantha Green, claimed the evidence showed the bus was sold to Manhattan attorney Robert Pottroff for $1,000 and that the transfer of ownership didn’t occur until February 2005, after the bus had already been painted purple and the upper deck had been added.

Attorneys for both sides made their closing arguments Tuesday morning.

“On Nov. 18, 2006, a defective bus took its first life,” Thompson told jurors. “The clock ran out on the Cat Tracker. It was a vehicle that had been in operation since the early ’90s. It wasn’t used any differently on Nov. 18, 2006, than it was used time and time and time again before that.”

Thompson said there should be little doubt in the jurors’ minds that the Cat Tracker should not have been on the road and that it was Briggs’ responsibility to keep that from happening.

“Sellers of vehicles have an obligation to protect the public,” Thompson said. “Dangerous vehicles should not be on our streets.”

Thompson claimed Briggs Auto Group falsified documents before being called in for a deposition in April 2008 to make the sales transaction appear to be a donation.

“Their explanations and excuses make no sense,” Thompson said. “With 30-plus years in the business, why is this so difficult to get right? They give cars away to seniors at Manhattan High School. ... Cash changed hands here.”

But Terry Iles, attorney for Briggs Auto Group, said five witnesses testified that the bus was given away on Aug. 17, 2003, as a 50th birthday present to Pottroff.

“He took possession of the gift that day,” Iles said. “Counsel would have you believe that this was a sale. These documents are all over the place and Briggs knows that. If they truly wanted to mislead somebody, wouldn’t they have dated them Aug. 17, 2003?”

Iles also asked jurors to look at the personal responsibility of everyone involved in the accident, from the driver of the bus to John Green himself.

“He controlled his destiny,” Iles said. “They all knew how high they were, and they all agreed to pay attention ... They knew it was dangerous, and they voluntarily elected to stay up on that bus.”

Only 10 of the 12 jurors needed to agree in order to reach a verdict in the case. Jurors deliberated for just over three hours before returning with the verdict before 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Nearly a dozen other defendants previously settled with the plaintiff. The details of those settlements remain sealed.

Comments

imastinker 3 years, 9 months ago

Where's EDJayhawk and Oldenoughtobeyourdad?

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newmedia 3 years, 9 months ago

Innocent until proven guilty !! What a waste of resources...

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

Did the bridge sustain any damage? Can the city sue somebody?

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KansasPerson 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm coming rather late to this story and I am hoping some of you can help me out.

From the pictures, I see that the bus (after being given to the Manhattan attorney Robert Pottroff) was fitted with an upper deck.

Was this deck intended for people to stand on, but just not when the bus was moving? In other words, was the bus just supposed to carry revelers (safely inside) to the tailgate party, at which point, the bus would park and people could swarm all over it if they wanted to?

(Doesn't it seem odd that the new owner Pottroff, as a lawyer, would not think of the possible injuries that could ensue?)

Did Pottroff rent the bus out for parties? Was the driver an employee of Potroff?

Were there a lot of people standing up on the deck that day, and only one of them hit his head when they went under the overpass? Did the others duck, or did they get injured but just not badly, or were they not as tall? Or was Mr. Green the only one up there?

Thank you in advance for helping clear these little points up for me!

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smokey99 3 years, 9 months ago

The sadness of this accident is being overshadowed by the greed of these people suing everyone but Santa Claus in order to hit the "jackpot". I guess they settled with some, so their efforts weren't totally fruitless. But the "BIG FISH" got away. I feel bad for the family, but the system worked this time.

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statesman 3 years, 9 months ago

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

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domino 3 years, 9 months ago

Thanks to the men & women who served on the jury. I hope Mrs. Green will move on with her life now and concentrate on raising her little girl.

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purplesage 3 years, 9 months ago

I hope the greasy lawyer was working on a contingency.

While I am sympathetic to the family in the loss, there just has to be a limit to liability. The answer is responsibility. The victim was an adult. The driver, presumably holding a CDL, had responsibilityy. The whole concept of the party bus is questionable.

What would cause a responsible family man to ride down the road atop a moving bus? Hmmm. I wonder if they sued / settled with the brewer of whatever the Cat Tracker's revelers were drinking that day?

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yankeevet 3 years, 9 months ago

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1029 3 years, 9 months ago

If I was on that jury I'm not sure I could have sat there listening to James Thompson's closing argument without cracking up. "On Nov. 18, 2006, a defective bus took its first life"? Hahaha. What a clown.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

Where's oldenuf? He was all over the trial thread yesterday like a duck on a June bug.

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macon47 3 years, 9 months ago

if she had a better attorney he would have beaten the jury like a mule cried sobbed, won, and got about 60 percent of what she would have been awarded he didnt have a clue what he was doing or was paid off, what a joke

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Newell_Post 3 years, 9 months ago

Highly unlikely. The lawyers were just trying to milk the last remaining defendant. Everybody who was actually responsible had already settled out of court.

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LadyJ 3 years, 9 months ago

I was just wondering if the lawsuit might have something to do with life insurance. Could a life insurance company refuse to pay if they felt the death was the victim's fault thus forcing the wife to sue to prove it was someone elses fault? I know they do not pay if death is caused by suicide. Just wondering.

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monheim 3 years, 9 months ago

It sounds like the lawyer for Mrs. Green just made very poor arguments. Why would it matter how old the bus is? He seems to be implying that since it was old it was dangerous. That may be true, but this incident had nothing to do with the age of the bus. The brakes didn't fail, the axle didn't snap, etc. People were on top of this bus when they should not have been. If I ride in the back of my dad's pickup and fall out or hit something, there is no way that the manufacturer of the truck would be liable for that.

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rgh 3 years, 9 months ago

I do feel for the family of this gentleman and the other who was injured but I don't feel the dealership had any liability which the jury found also.

I'm sure the man who was given the bus is next in line for the civil suit and/or the person who did the actual altering of the bus. This was a tragic accident and hopefully this will be the end of it though I have doubts.

Regardless, we need to pray for the family and may God bless each one. It's a loss a family never gets over.

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azalum 3 years, 9 months ago

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

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deskboy04 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't have a comment on the jury decision. I have to trust they listened to all of the arguments and made their decision based on that. My comment is that this is a tragedy for all involved. I feel sorry for the widow and her child.

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Kelly Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

I think this was a good decision by the jurors. I am sorry for the family's loss and I hope they can move forward now. This might be a good opportunity for them to become safety advocates.

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Bob Kraxner 3 years, 9 months ago

My question is: why did it have to go all the way to trial to arrive at this conclusion, and just how much taxpayer money was wasted?

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flyin_squirrel 3 years, 9 months ago

I think this is the correct judgement, but now Briggs only has 3 other lawsuits awaiting him. I would never buy a car from him.

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cheeseburger 3 years, 9 months ago

This was the correct decision. Now please, Mrs. Green, concentrate on raising your daughter and give up on trying to saddle others with the responsibility that was your husband's on that fateful day.

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JackFrost 3 years, 9 months ago

I agree with Big_B. I noticed a sign approaching the intersection of 15th and Iowa that indicated the clearance of the traffic signal arm is 14'8". If you take a 10' tall bus and stand a 6' person on top of it, well, we know the rest. You just have to be damn careful. I'm 45. On Saturday I fell 12' from an extension ladder( the oak tree limb I sawed of knocked the ladder out from under me) in a freefall and landed on my butt. Due to the angel on my shoulder I got up and walked away from it with minor scrapes. I should have anticipated where the limb would fall. We humans are NOT immortal. I'm still learning that. It can be tragic, but there are consequences for the risks we take.

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4chewnut 3 years, 9 months ago

Will Pottroff have any liability?

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CLARKKENT 3 years, 9 months ago

THIS JURY DID THE RIGHT THING.

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macon47 3 years, 9 months ago

the jury should be congradulated for not getting all teary eyed and blaming briggs auto for someones elses personal responsilbity

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JSDAD 3 years, 9 months ago

as with joe college, will she now have to pay brigg's legal fees?

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none2 3 years, 9 months ago

I agree too that the majority of the fault lies with the guys who voluntarily choose to move up to the roof and voluntarily choose to stand instead of sit or kneel down when they were on the roof.

As to the driver, one could argue that if he knew they were up there standing maybe he should have stopped the bus until they either sat down up there or got down.

How much fault the driver has depends on how much you think adults should be responsible for their own behavior -- regardless how much they drank. If we were talking about kids, then yes, the driver would have been VERY responsible for their actions.

As to the prior owners or whomever put a standing platform on the roof, they have no liability. The platform functioned fine, it was just improperly used. It wasn't meant to be used while the vehicle was moving.

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autie 3 years, 9 months ago

I know it is a terrible thing but all I can think of is that song we used to sing in grade school during music class. Erie Canal.

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LJ Whirled 3 years, 9 months ago

There, now. That's about right. Every now and then a jury takes care of business. Hope the Plaintiff's lawyer worked a lot, on a contingent fee.

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hail2oldku 3 years, 9 months ago

Didn't take that long for the verdict to come in on this one.

I wonder how much the widow gave up by not settling with Briggs out of court. Do we know if any settlement was offered prior to going to trial since the rest of the parties involved had already settled?

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LJ Whirled 3 years, 9 months ago

I'd give about 70% fault to the guys drinking and standing on the top of the bus, and about 30% to the driver for not having the sense to pull over and make them get down. You shouldn't be able to get rich by being drunk and stupid and getting yourself killed.

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juststrugglin 3 years, 9 months ago

I agree 100 % and I can not believe it has made it this far in court. This is just setting the bar for more stupid lawsuits. Money hungry fools.

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cheeseburger 3 years, 9 months ago

It happened because an individual, who failed to use good judgment after imbibing, committed an unsafe act which resulted in his death. That is not the fault of the bus manufacturer or the beer manufacturer or any other entity the family would attempt to pin this on.

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