First Student has filed a memorandum in opposition to a plaintiff’s motion to plead punitive damages in a case involving a brawl between two bus drivers.
Plaintiff Gary Spiller claims Ronald Cochran attacked him on Aug. 8, 2011, in their place of employment’s break room. Both worked as school bus drivers for First Student.
According to the memorandum, punitive damages “should only be awarded in cases involving conduct that contains ‘some element of outrage similar to that usually found in crime.’ The conduct must be outrageous, done with an evil motive or reckless indifference to another’s rights so as to exhibit a degree of moral blame,” which First Student says is not the case in Spiller’s lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Spiller claims First Student negligently failed to warn him of a threat to his safety, failed to notify his union of the threat, failed to further investigate a threat Cochran made and failed to warn Cochran that he would be terminated if he engaged in an act of violence.
First Student denies negligent supervision arguing that Spiller has not proven that the employer failed to safeguard him from Cochran and protect him from injury, according to the memorandum.
First Student claims Spiller further proved its stance when he said he was not afraid of Cochran when Cochran threatened to cut him, which confirms Spiller did not fear for his safety.
The deposition of Roberta Everhart was taken on Sept. 5 at HeplerBroom in Edwardsville. Based on her testimony, First Student filed a motion in limine, moving for an order instructing the plaintiff to prevent witnesses from mentioning Everhart’s testimony.
According to the motion, Everhart claimed that she texted supervisor John Mollett on Aug. 8, 2011, telling him he needed to get into the break room immediately. Mollett allegedly responded to the break room but didn’t ask her what was going on. She says she never did tell him or First Student what happened between Cochran and Spiller.
“Everhart’s deposition testimony confirms that she did not give notice to First Student of any specific threats allegedly made by Cochran to Plaintiff,” the motion states. “Everhart’s recollection of Cochran’s alleged threat is therefore inadmissible hearsay.”
According to the complaint, Cochran attacked Spiller after Spiller turned down the advances of a female employee.
“Prior to the battery, Ronald Cochran and another female employed by First Student had an intimate relationship and Cochran had become infatuated with the female employee,” the suit states. “In order to appease and placate his paramour, Cochran determined to punish plaintiff Spiller by battering him forcefully.”
However, according to First Student’s memorandum, Cochran and Spiller are equally at blame for the violence. Both men argued with each other in the break room and during a prior altercation at Aldi’s, according to First Student.
Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge has rescheduled a jury trial for Oct. 15 at 9 a.m. with a pre-trial hearing set for Oct. 10 at 9 a.m. This is the second time the jury trial has been rescheduled.
C. Zachary Vaugn in Chicago represents Cochran.
Thomas J. Magee of HeplerBroom in St. Louis represents First Student.
Roy C. Dripps of Armbruster, Dripps, Winterscheidt and Blotevogel in Alton represents Spiller.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 12-L-1223