Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Oct. 23, 2013, 10:56am

A girl and her mother are denying a bus company’s affirmative defenses in a lawsuit alleging the girl was injured in a school bus attack.

Plaintiffs Cora Jackson and her daughter De’Ja Payne filed their response to First Student’s affirmative defenses on Sept. 24 through attorney Brian D. Kurth of Meyerkord & Meyerkord LLC in St. Louis.

According to the complaint, Payne was riding one of First Student's buses on Jan. 11, 2011, when Nickeynon Banner allegedly teased her about her weight. Payne claims she asked Banner to leave her alone when Banner fist-punched Payne in the face about five times, the suit states. Both were students at West Junior High in Belleville at the time.

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

First Student and defendant Belleville Public School District #118 both denied the claims against them and blamed Payne’s own negligence in their responses.

The plaintiffs then countered by denying the school district’s affirmative defenses on Aug. 28.

Jackson and Payne seek a judgment of more than $50,000.

Meg L. Fowler and Katharine A. Aplington of HeplerBroom LLC in St. Louis represents First Student.

Joe Callahan of Rouse & Cary in St. Louis represents Belleville Public School District #118.

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

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