Bus Driver Faces Multiple Charges After LaPlace Wreck

The man who allegedly caused three deaths in a bus crash in August of this year has been indicted on three separate counts of negligent homicide.

37-year-old Denis Yasmir Amaya-Rodriguez, a Honduran national, did not have a valid license when he allegedly lost control of a tour bus carrying workers to flood-damaged areas of Baton Rouge. Both at the scene and in subsequent interviews, Mr. Rodriguez claimed the brakes failed moments before he slammed into a St. John Fire District truck that was responding to the scene of an earlier collision. Three people were killed in the bus crash, including 36-year-old Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin. Mr. Rodriguez, who had a history of traffic infractions, claimed that the bus’ owner, Christian Lombardo of Kristina’s Transportation LLC, knew that he did not have a valid license.  “I even told him, ‘I don’t want to drive because I don’t have a license to drive these large vehicles here,'” he recalled saying. The company did not inspect the bus before the trip, Mr. Rodriguez added.

In addition to the three deaths, more than two dozen people were injured in the incident.

First Party Liability in Bus Crashes

If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) claims that a mechanical defect, and not operator error, caused the collision, the Event Data Recorder is often a key piece of evidence. Most vehicles have such devices, which are basically like the “black box” flight data recorders in aircraft. In addition to driving data, like brake application, vehicle speed, engine RPM, and other metrics, many EDRs also record certain mechanical faults or failures.

In most cases, a non-owner must have a court order to access these devices and download the information they contain; furthermore, many insurance companies dispose of totaled vehicles shortly after the bus crash, meaning that the EDR, and any other physical evidence contained in the vehicle, is most probably gone. So, in cases like these, it is important to partner quickly with a hard-working attorney who can act to preserve key evidence for trial.

Third Party Liability in Bus Crashes

Particularly in cases that involve multiple serious injuries, third party liability is important if available, because it basically makes more money available to victims. If the facts are as Mr. Rodriguez recalls them, the above story may be a clear-cut case of negligent entrustment. The elements are:

  • Incompetent Driver: The vehicle owner must allow an incompetent driver to operate his or her vehicle. If the driver does not have a license, incompetence is presumed in most cases.
  • Knowledge: Moreover, the vehicle owner must know that the driver was incompetent; for example, the vehicle owner must know that the driver does not have a license or know that the operator is a bad driver.

Damages in bus crash cases normally include compensation for both economic losses, like property damage, and noneconomic losses, like emotional distress. Punitive damages are also available, in some cases.

For prompt assistance with a bus crash case, contact Lee Hoffoss or T-Claude Devall, your experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorneys from Hoffoss Devall today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.