St. Clair County jury awards Cahokia mechanic more than $845K following bus incident, crash

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jan 2, 2019

A mechanic for the Cahokia School District was awarded $845,542.08 after he allegedly suffered injuries in a Cahokia crash in 2015 and again when he was hit by the hood of a school bus in 2017. 

Jurors entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff Thomas Crouch on Dec. 19 in St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson’s courtroom. Crouch was awarded $843,672.08 against defendant First Student Inc. and $1,870 against defendant Tamara Harris. 

The trial began Dec. 17.

Crouch was represented at trial by Thomas Rich, Kristina Cooksey and Michelle Rich of Rich, Rich & Cooksey PC in Fairview Heights.

Tori Walls  

First Student was represented by David Ryan, Whitney Burkett and Hayley Ryan of Patton & Ryan LLC in Chicago.

Harris was represented by Tori Walls of Reed Armstrong Mudge & Morrissey PC in Edwardsville.

According to First Student’s trial memorandum filed Dec.12, Harris admitted she was negligent in the operation of her vehicle but denied that Crouch was injured to the extent he claims.

The memorandum also stated First Student denied that its employee was negligent in opening a bus hood and denied that Crouch was injured to the extent he claims. The defendant also argued that Crouch was contributorily negligent by walking in front of the bus, which allegedly caused the incident. 

Crouch filed his complaint against Harris on March 20, 2017.

He alleged he was driving southbound on Range Lane in Cahokia on May 15, 2015, when Harris allegedly caused a rear-end collision. 

Crouch alleged he suffered injuries his neck and soft tissues of the cervical, shoulder and lumbar area. 

Crouch alleged Harris failed to keep a proper lookout for other vehicles, failed to properly apply brakes, operated her vehicle at an excessive rate of speed and followed the plaintiff’s vehicle too closely. 

Harris answered the complaint on May 26, 2017, arguing that Crouch failed to exercise due care and caution for his own safety and negligently operated his vehicle. 

Crouch filed an amended complaint on April 19, 2017, adding First Student as a defendant for an incident unrelated to the 2015 collision. 

Crouch alleged he was an employee of Cahokia School District on Nov. 4, 2016. He claimed he was performing work for his employer when a First Student employee opened the hood of a bus and struck Crouch, causing him to fall to the ground.

First Student’s trial memorandum stated that Crouch was performing work as a mechanic for the school district and First Student employee Gregory Bender was also performing work as a mechanic. Crouch and Bender work in the same shop but have designated bays in which they work on their respective vehicles. 

As Bender was opening the hood of a bus to check the engine, Crouch walked in front of the bus and was struck on the side of his head by the bus mirror, the trial memorandum states.

The plaintiff alleged First Student failed to keep a proper lookout and failed to properly train or certify its employees. 

As a result, Crouch claimed he suffered injuries to his neck, back and right knee, as well as injuries to his soft tissues of the cervical, shoulder and lumbar area. 

First Student answered the complaint on Oct. 23, 2017, arguing that Crouch negligently contributed to his own injuries by failing to keep a proper lookout for his safety, failed to move out of the way of the hood of the bus and improperly walking between the bus bays rather than around the back of the busses. 

First Student filed a counterclaim for contribution against Harris on July 3, arguing that although it denies liability it “will be entitled to contribution” from Harris in an amount commensurate with her percentage of fault for Crouch’s injuries. 

Harris answered the counterclaim on July 24, denying liability to First Student. 

Harris also filed a counterclaim against First Student, arguing that she is entitled to contribution from First Student. 

First Student answered the counterclaim on Aug. 20, denying liability to Harris and arguing that Crouch is contributorily negligent. 

Harris filed a motion for directed verdict at the close of all evidence on Dec. 19, seeking “a directed finding that defendant Harris’ negligence was not a proximate cause of the complaints, injuries, medical treatment, and damages claimed by plaintiff after November 4, 2016 and beyond, including any future claimed damages.”

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Organizations in this Story

Patton and Ryan LLC Reed, Armstrong Mudge & Morrissey Rich, Rich & Cooksey PC

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