Christina Stueve Hodges Aug. 22, 2013, 8:06am

The Belleville Public School System is fighting a woman’s lawsuit against the school for injuries her daughter sustained by an attack from another student on the school bus.

Cora Jackson claims her daughter, De’Ja Payne, was riding a school bus, Jan. 11, 2011, when another student, Nickeynon Banner, teased her about her weight. Payne, then a student at West Junior High in Belleville, asked Banner to leave her alone, according to the complaint filed June 26 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit states Banner fist-punched De’ja in the face about five times.

Belleville Public School responded to the lawsuit Aug. 6.

The school claims De’Ja Payne instigated and/or failed to stop the verbal and physical confrontation and that if she had ceased the verbal and physical confrontation, she could have avoided some or all of her claimed injuries.

The school also states the plaintiff’s own negligence was the sole proximate cause of any alleged injuries she may have incurred on the date of the alleged occurrence.

“For further answer and in affirmative defense, defendant states that the plaintiff’s own negligence was the sole proximate cause of any alleged injuries she may have incurred on the date of the alleged occurrence,” the school stated in their response to the lawsuit.

Belleville Public School stated plaintiff De’Ja Payne failed to exercise due care for her own safety and failed to keep a careful lookout.

The school also states the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and that the plaintiffs have failed to mitigate their damages, and as such, are not entitled to recover.

According to the lawsuit, Banner had repeatedly taunted and bullied Payne in the months leading up to the incident, and the school, including the bus driver, was aware of Banner’s proclivity toward violence.

Because of the attack, Payne suffered a broken nose, facial scarring and nose bleeds; experienced physical and mental pain and anguish; and incurred medical costs, Jackson claims.

Jackson blames the bus company and Belleville Public School District for causing her daughter’s injuries, saying they negligently failed to provide an aide to ensure safety, failed to intervene and prevent the attack on Payne and failed to transport De’Ja with reasonable safety.

Jackson seeks more than $50,000.

Belleville Public School District denies the allegations and demands a trial by jury.

The case is assigned to St. Clair County Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson.

Brian Kurth of Meyerkord and Meyerkord in St. Louis represents the plaintiff.

Joseph F. Callahan of the Law Offices of Rouse & Cary in St. Louis represents Belleville Public School.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-327.

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