A $15 million lawsuit filed on behalf of 11 Bucks County residents who were injured after a charter bus slammed into a Massachusetts overpass two years ago is blaming a GPS company.
In the suit, filed in a Massachusetts state court, attorneys representing victims of the bus wreck are charging that Garmin, the maker of the GPS device, sold a defective and unsafe product.
The suit argues that if the device was made for commercial vehicles, it would have directed the driver around a bridge with a 10-foot clearance. But it wasn’t, and the device’s packaging did not make that clear, according to the suit.
“So if you put on your box, ‘Not for commercial use,’ or when the thing lights up when you put it on, ‘Do not use in a commercial vehicle,’ then the company’s absolved. But they didn’t do that,” said attorney Jim Ronca, who is representing the victims in the case.
Mary Levy, a law professor at Temple University, said all the screaming disclaimers seen on products of all sorts are the fruit of cases like this one.
“These suits prevail all the time. That’s why you see products that contain more and more and more warnings,” Levy said. “And you buy a lighter today and there’s like a paragraph disclaimer on it, and it’s because litigants along the way got injured by the lighters and they claimed they didn’t get the proper warnings.”
The bus, carrying around 30 high school students and their chaperones, was on its way back to Philadelphia from Boston, where the students took a field trip to Harvard University as part of a group working with at-risk youth.
Just minutes into the journey, the 12-foot-tall bus struck the bridge, collapsing its roof. The collision seriously injured one teenager and sent 35 others to the hospital.
Matthew Cruz, who was paralyzed after injuring his spinal cord in the accident, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. Ten other injured passengers are also suing.
Attorney Ronca said faulty GPS directions have caused numerous bridge collisions around the country.
“There have been some injuries and a lot of damage done to bridges and vehicles by this issue, which could be very easily eliminated, or vastly reduced by simply advising truckers and bus operators, those with commercial drivers licenses, not to use a standard GPS,” he said.
Attorneys are also suing Samuel Jackson, 67, of Philadelphia who was driving the bus but was not injured. The suit alleges that he was distracted and did not notice signs cautioning the imminent low bridge.
Authorities do not believe Jackson was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Yet after striking the bridge, he continued to drive an additional 500 feet, something he couldn’t adequately explain to police.