Second RFTA crash trial set
January 23, 2016
A District Court judge on Wednesday scheduled the second trial in a lawsuit over a 2013 Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus crash for December.
However, a lawyer who represents three plaintiffs in the case said settlement talks are ongoing and the lawsuit could be settled before the trial date in 11 months.
"The defendants know what the responsibilities will be," Jeff Wertz said. "That should get us closer to a possible settlement."
A civil jury trial last month determined the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority driver, Jaime Nunez, 57, was 50 percent responsible for the crash, while the man driving a slow-moving tractor that the bus driver swerved to avoid was 45 percent responsible and the tractor owner was 5 percent responsible.
The crash occurred on Highway 82 near El Jebel in October 2013, when Nunez came upon the tractor, which was driving in the right lane about 20 mph while pulling a mower. Nunez was going between 60 and 65 mph and testified that he didn't see the tractor until the last second, when he swerved into the left-hand lane and successfully avoided hitting it.
However, the left side of the bus ended up in the median, and Nunez over-corrected to the right while trying to get the bus back on the highway and lost control. The bus then hit the concrete Jersey barrier, ejecting six of the 11 passengers.
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One passenger ended up under the bus, while another became entangled in a wildlife fence.
Lights on the tractor were at least partially obscured by the mower and the tractor did not have a reflective emblem identifying it as a slow-moving vehicle. Two other drivers ahead of the bus also nearly hit the tractor.
District Attorney Sherry Caloia declined to pursue criminal charges against Nunez.
The first jury trial determined the responsibility of each defendant, while the second is supposed to determine the monetary damages due to each plaintiff.
Wertz said seven plaintiffs remain involved in the case — six passengers and the husband of one passenger. Lawyers are ready to go to trial again, though Wertz said settlements with various insurance companies could happen.
"It costs more to go to trial and lose than it costs to not to go trial and still lose," Wertz said.