Jury awards $7M to NC trooper who was in­jured in bus crash

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY JOSH SHAF­FER AND MICHAEL GORDON jshaf­[email protected]­sob­server.com mgor­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com Josh Shaf­fer: 919- 8294818, @joshshaf­fer08

A jury awarded $ 7 mil­lion Fri­day to a North Carolina state trooper se­ri­ously in­jured in a Christ­mas Eve crash in 2014 when a Greyhound bus slammed into his SUV on In­ter­state 40.

Trooper Chris Jus­tice was in­ves­ti­gat­ing a fa­tal ac­ci­dent in Ala­mance County when the bus plowed into the scene de­spite numer­ous emer­gency ve­hi­cles with lights flash­ing, said Alex Heroy, his at­tor­ney.

Jus­tice and his wife, Lisa, re­ceived the jury’s award for com­pen­satory dam­ages af­ter a two-week fed­eral trial in New Bern. The trooper re­mains un­able to work due to back, neck and men­tal in­juries and will never be able to re­join the High­way Pa­trol.

“The jury was emo­tional when the ver­dict was read, just like we were,” said Heroy with the Char­lotte firm James, McElroy and Diehl. “He got creamed by a bus go­ing al­most 70 mph. We know what hap­pens to football play­ers when they’re hit by line­men.”

The ac­ci­dent started when a car skid­ded off the section of high­way near Me­bane shared by in­ter­states 40 and 85. A woman from High Point hy­droplaned into the scene and struck three fire ve­hi­cles, troop­ers re­ported. She died in the crash.

Jus­tice was work­ing the ac­ci­dent scene, parked in the far-right lane with his emer­gency lights flash­ing, sit­ting in the front seat of his High­way Pa­trol Chevy Ta­hoe, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

The bus, traveling from At­lanta to Raleigh, struck the back of the Ta­hoe, crum­pling half the ve­hi­cle and push­ing the Ta­hoe 170 feet. Jus­tice suf­fered numer­ous bro­ken bones, troop­ers said at the time.

Court doc­u­ments show at­tor­neys for both sides agree the bus driver, J.L. Robin­son, had ex­ceeded the num­ber of work hours al­low­able by fed­eral stan­dards. The driver had made a math­e­mat­i­cal er­ror in cal­cu­lat­ing hours 20 days ear­lier, court doc­u­ments said, though he tes­ti­fied he was not tired at the time.

The bus had left At­lanta around 1 a.m., with stops at Char­lotte and Greens­boro along the way, Heroy said. The col­li­sion oc­curred just af­ter 10 a.m.

That morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to Heroy, the ear­lier wrecks had closed two lanes of the in­ter­state and slowed hol­i­day traffic to 15-20 mph.

Robin­son, though, had the Greyhound on cruise con­trol at 68 mph, which Heroy said was the ve­hi­cle’s max­i­mum al­low­able speed.

Court doc­u­ments from 2016 said the speed limit was 65. Robin­son was cited in the crash.

Greyhound, in its re­sponse to the com­plaint, de­nied neg­li­gence, ar­gu­ing that the High­way Pa­trol shared re­spon­si­bil­ity by us­ing a Ta­hoe with in­ad­e­quate warn­ings and fail­ing to prop­erly train Jus­tice on safety pre­cau­tions.

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A jury has awarded $7 mil­lion to a North Carolina High­way Pa­trol trooper who was in­jured in this wreck on I-40/85 near Me­bane on Dec. 24, 2014.

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