A Dallas County jury has ordered the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to pay $11 million to the families of two women from Fort Worth and North Richland Hills who were killed in 2013 when a chartered bus crashed on the way to a casino.
The families of Paula Hahn, 69, of Fort Worth and Alice Stanley, 83, of North Richland Hills are to get $6 million and $4.9 million in the suit, respectively.
The women were on a trip to the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant the morning of April 11, 2013, when the bus, northbound on the George Bush Turnpike, veered into guard barrels, swerved across multiple lanes, hit a concrete barrier and flipped over, the Star-Telegram has reported.
Hahn was pronounced dead at the scene. Her family was represented by Dallas attorney Spencer Browne, who could not be reached Monday night.
Dallas attorney Frank Branson represented Stanley, who died 10 days after the crash at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas from complications of blunt force trauma, according to a suit filed against the Choctaw Nation.
“She was awake, alert, able to interact, and experiencing pain during most of the 10-day period that she was in Parkland before her death,” according to the lawsuit.
Witnesses testified last week that driver Loyd Rieve, now 68, of Dallas, was distracted before the crash when Sue Taylor, the woman who organized the trip, was speaking with him about whether to take the tollway, Branson said.
Taylor, known as “Casino Sue,” 81, of Hurst, was also killed in the crash.
The other families’ suit claimed that the Choctaw Nation was responsible for the “negligence” of Taylor, the bus company, Cardinal Coach Line, and Rieve, who were acting as agents for the Choctaw Nation but were not reasonably trained and supervised to enforce passenger safety rules.
Branson said 85 percent of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s income comes from Texas. He argued that although Rieve worked for Cardinal Coach Line, he and Taylor were on a “mission” for the Choctaw Nation to get people to the casino.
The suit said the Choctaw Nation contracted directly with Cardinal and paid for the trip. The passengers “paid the Choctaw Nation $10 for the bus trip” and were to get that money back in slot chips at the casino.
“Basically, if you are going to invite these senior citizens to gamble, you need to make sure this trip is safe,” Branson said.
Forty-five passengers were on the bus that morning, and 15 were hospitalized at Parkland in serious condition after the crash.
“It was a pretty long time for the jury to be out, and they were very thorough,” Branson said Monday.
Branson said the Choctaw Nation offered to settle the Stanley family lawsuit for $50,000 before the trial and argued that the sole responsibility lay with the charter bus company, Cardinal Coach Line and its driver.
The North Texas Tollway Authority sued Cardinal Coach Line in June 2014 in Dallas County, alleging that Rieve and the Mansfield-based charter bus company were negligent. The agency asked for $100,000 in damages for repairs to Texas 161 and other losses. The outcome of the case could not be learned late Monday.
The bus company had filed for bankruptcy in a Fort Worth federal court at the time of the suit.
“This was a charter company, the driver had a number of issues in his background and Choctaw didn’t look into it; they just accepted what the bus company said,” Branson said.
Taylor worked for many years with the Tarrant County tax assessor’s office. Hahn retired in 2001 after 21 years with the Fort Worth Water Department.
The Choctaw Nation may appeal. Tribe officials could not be reached for comment Monday night.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
ANOTHER RECENT BUS INCIDENT: