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.


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.


cheeseburger 7 years, 11 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.

jelizabethm 7 years, 11 months ago

know more about case before you comment, cheeseburger -- he wasnt drunk!

jelizabethm 7 years, 11 months ago

know more about case before you comment, cheeseburger -- he wasnt drunk!

chevy 7 years, 11 months ago

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.

juststrugglin 7 years, 11 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.

hail2oldku 7 years, 11 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?

Lisa Rasor 7 years, 11 months ago

I imagine it was the other way around; Briggs refused to offer a settlement, so she took them to court.

hail2oldku 7 years, 11 months ago

That's what I was wondering - did they not offer enough (or any) settlement or did she get some bad legal advice telling her she could get more by going after the deep pockets.

JSDAD asks a good question below. Is she now saddled with covering the costs of Briggs legal representation since she lost?

Lisa Rasor 7 years, 11 months ago

It depends if Briggs asks the Court to award court costs and attorney fees.

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 11 months ago

I hope they do, it should cost you to file a frivolous lawsuit. If they made a practice of it perhaps there would be fewer.

gphawk89 7 years, 11 months ago

Terrible, but appropriate. For those not fortunate enough to learn that song in grade school: Low bridge, everybody down, Low bridge 'cause we're coming to a town, You'll always know your neighbor and you'll always know your pal, If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 11 months ago

well i guess it's time the state ban platforms. like K2, when used as a potpourri, it worked just fine..but when used incorrectly, all hell breaks loose.

geekyhost 7 years, 11 months ago

My understanding is that the driver was not legally permitted to drive any car that didn't have a breathalyzer attached to it, let alone a bus, which he was never licensed to drive.

JSDAD 7 years, 11 months ago

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

Orwell 7 years, 11 months ago

Highly unlikely. If the case was so devoid of evidence or legal basis as to warrant recovery of attorney's fees it should have been dismissed long before going to trial. Looks like a case of conflicting evidence, and resolving such conflicts is what juries do.

flyin_squirrel 7 years, 11 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.

Kelly Johnson 7 years, 11 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.

deskboy04 7 years, 11 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.

rgh 7 years, 11 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.

Matt Torres 7 years, 11 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.

geekyhost 7 years, 11 months ago

But I'm betting your truck manual has a clear warning that nobody should ride in the bed of the pickup. If it's too old for the warnings, there are still laws against it. This bus was modified after market and did not contain those warnings. Granted, it should have been obvious.

LadyJ 7 years, 11 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.

Tom McCune 7 years, 11 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.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 11 months ago

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

1029 7 years, 11 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.

yankeevet 7 years, 11 months ago

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

purplesage 7 years, 11 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?

domino 7 years, 11 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.

yankeevet 7 years, 11 months ago

Yes; move on and get a job..........instead of trying too blame other people and take their money...........

statesman 7 years, 11 months ago

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smokey99 7 years, 11 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.

KansasPerson 7 years, 11 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!

Flap Doodle 7 years, 11 months ago

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

newmedia 7 years, 11 months ago

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

imastinker 7 years, 11 months ago

Where's EDJayhawk and Oldenoughtobeyourdad?

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