Wrongful death lawsuit filed in Chattanooga school bus crash case

Zyanna Harris (Courtesy: The Harris family)

CHATTANOOAG, Tenn. (WKRN) – The mother and father of a little girl who died in the tragic Chattanooga school bus crash in late November have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Natasha McGee and Robert Bynum’s daughter, 10-year-old Zyanna Harris, was one of six students killed when the bus veered off the road, overturned, and slammed into a tree just blocks from their school, Woodmore Elementary.

The parents are suing Durham School Services, the company who owned the school bus; the driver, Johnthony Walker, who is charged in the case; and Thomas Built Buses.

(Courtesy: Chattanooga Police Department)
(Courtesy: Chattanooga Police Department)

The lawsuit claims Walker acted negligently as he “had a duty to exercise reasonable care in operating the subject school bus,” saying he breached this duty in a “negligent, careless, and reckless fashion,” causing the death of Zyanna.

PHOTOS: Deadly Chattanooga school bus crash

It further states Walker was operating a motor vehicle in violation of traffic statues, such as reckless driving, failure to adhere to the speed limit, and failure to maintain a traffic lane.

McGee and Bynum are also suing Durham School Services for vicarious liability, saying since Walker was working for the company they are also liable for his conduct.

The suit says Durham also breached their duties by failing to have policies in place to ensure all drivers were properly hired and trained, failing to properly hire and train then, and “failing to use the degree of skill and care required for a student transportation company…”

RELATED: School bus company CEO implements major safety changes after Chattanooga crash

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

Lastly, the parents say Thomas Built Buses was also negligent, saying the bus they built that was involved in the crash was “unreasonably dangerous and defective at the time it was designed, manufactured, districted, sold, assembly, and/or supplied.”

The lawsuit claims the bus in question was defectively designed because it did not include seat belt, and the bus contained a window system that failed to prevent contact between the window glass and the roadway and failed to minimize the possibility of occupant ejection in foreseeable overturn/slide events.

Thomas Built Buses is therefore accused of being negligent in designing and manufacturing the buses even though safer alternative designs exist.

Read the full lawsuit here. 

McGee and Bynum demand a jury trial be held and they be granted compensatory damages for the lifelong emotional effects of losing a child in the amount of $5,000,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $500,000.

Their lawsuit is one of several filed by parents whose children were injured in killed the crash. One mother filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son who suffered a traumatic brain injury, and another sued the bus company and driver after their 9-year-old was injured.

Click here for every story on the Chattanooga school bus crash.