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Date: 08-27-2009

Case Style: Bellaire Nursing Home Residents v. Motor Coach Industries, et al.

Case Number: 05-1073

Judge: Rose Reyna

Court: 206th Judicial District Court, Hildalgo County, Texas

Plaintiff's Attorney: Richard Mithoff, Sherie Beckman, and Janie Jordan; Mithoff Law Firm; Houston

Randy Sorrels and Mohammed Aziz; Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrells; Houston

Robert Luke, Ron Simon, and Tad Rice; Simon and Luke; Houston

Frank L. Branson and Quentin Brogdon; Law Offices of Frank L. Branson; Dallas

Mikal Watts and Greg Gowan; Watts Law Firm; Corpus Christi and San Antonio

Mark Lanier and Larry Wilson; The Lanier Firm; Houston

John Eddie Williams and J. Christopher Dean; Williams & Kerkher; Houston

Mike Perrin; Bailey Perrin Bailey; Houston

John Leach and Anthony Farah; The O’Quinn Firm; Houston

Ray Putney; Law Offices of Ray Putney; Houston

Jill Herz; Jill Herz, Attorney at Law; Dallas

Ramon Garcia and Sonia Lopez; Law Office of Ramon Garcia; Edinburg

Ronald Bair and Amanda Hilty; Bair Hilty; Houston

Michael Brown; Michael Brown, P.C.; Houston

Jim Perdue, Jr. and Joe Perdue; The Perdue Law Firm, L.L.P.; Houston

Michael Garza; Michael Garza, P.C.; McAllen, Texas

Michael Golemi; Liskow and Lewis; Houston

Ernest Wotring, Eileen Kisluk, and Amy Nilsen; Connelly-Baker-Maston-Wotring-Jackson; Houston

Jim Darnell; Jim Darnell, P.C., El Paso, Texas

Mark Romney; Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller; Dallas

Defendant's Attorney: Motor Coach Industries, Inc. – Darrell Barger and John Dacus; Hartline, Dacus, Barger, Dryer & Kern; Corpus Christi and Dallas

Global Charter Services, LTD dba “The Bus Bank” – Kenneth Tekell; Tekell, Book, Matthews and Limmer; Houston

Century McMynn Leasing – Charles W. Lyman; Barker, Lyman, Twining, Weinberg & Ferrell; Houston

Global Limo, Inc. – Larry Warner & Mark Cooper; Ball & Weed; San Antonio

MCT – Joe Hernandez; Willette & Guerra; McAllen

K & S Tire, Towing & Recovery, Inc. – H. Allen Pennington, Jr. & Jason Tomlin; Fort Worth

Arvin Meritor, Inc. – Tom Bullion; Brown McCarroll, L.L.P.; Austin

Juan Robles Gutierrez – Sofia Ramon; Atlas & Hall; McAllen

Valley Truck Center – Robert Ramey & Jill Schein; Ramey & Chandler; Houston

Sunrise Senior Living Services, Inc. – Joe Redden, Jr., Fields Alexander, Thomas Ganucheau, Jennifer Pratchett, Troy Ford, and Andrea Paterson; Beck, Redden & Secrest; Houston

SKF USA, Inc. – Francis Spagnoletti; Spagnoletti & Co.; Houston, Texas

Description: The approach of Hurricane Rita prompted a mass evacuation of the Houston area in September 2005. Elderly patients from a nursing home facility in Bellaire, Texas were evacuated as part of the evacuation. The elderly patients were being transported in MCI Model EL3 bus. During the course of the long trip to Dallas, the vehicle got a flat tire. The flat was changed by K&S Tire. The driver, Juan Robles, restarted the journey but was flagged down by a motorist to tell him that the rear right tag axle assembly of the bus was glowing red hot. Robles pulled to the side of the road. The heat generated by the locked up metal parts of the tag axle assembly caused the tire to catch on fire. The smoke from the tire fire quickly entered into the cabin of the bus where the elderly passengers were seated. The smoke from the tire fire severely hampered rescue efforts. The fire entered the cabin of the coach and caused 23 fatalities.

Families of the deceased residents and injured survivors filed suit against a number of entities over the course of the litigation. The litigation was consolidated in Hidalgo County, Texas and the Honorable Rose Reyna was appointed the MDL judge. The families were represented by a consortium of attorneys.

In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined the probable cause of the accident was insufficient lubrication of a rear axle, which overheated and caused a fire in the wheel-well that quickly filled the 1998 bus with flames and heavy smoke. The NTSB investigation presumed that the lack of lubrication was due to poor maintenance.

After years of litigation involving the review of several hundred thousand documents and more than 200 depositions, settlements totaling $80 million dollars were reached for the families of those victims of the tragedy. Companies that settled include: Motor Coach Industries (MCI), the bus manufacturer; ArvinMeritor Inc., the designer of the axle and rear wheel assembly; SKF Industries, a component maker; Global Charter, which was operating as the bus broker, The Bus Bank; Global Limo, the bus operator; Valley Volvo, which serviced the bus shortly before the trip to Houston; and K&S Towing, which changed a tire in the wheel area where the fire began, just hours before it erupted.

Claims against Defendants Juan Robles Gutierrez (the bus driver), Century McMynn Leasing (a lessor of the bus), and MCT (a lessee of the bus that sub-leased it to another party), remain to be tried.

Outcome: Confidential Settlement

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


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