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Lawsuit filed against bus driver, administrators

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By Kristin Beck

The parents of two children injured in the Carroll County Head Start bus accident on Oct. 29 have filed a lawsuit against the bus driver and the Carroll County School system.

Erica Isaias Cruz, the mother of Dulce Cruz of Worthville, and Charles T. and Kristina M. Hollingsworth, parents of Ryleigh Nicole Hollingsworth of Ghent, filed a lawsuit with the Carroll County Circuit Court Clerk on Nov. 13.

Defendants named in the case are bus driver Laura Reed, Carroll County Schools Superintendent Lisa James, Assistant Superintendent Bill Hogan, Chief Operating Officer Larry Curell, Director of the Office of Transportation Nadena Mahoney and Board of Education members Carolyn Jones, Mona Kindoll, Tommy Unker and Mary Ann Pearson. The lawsuit also names former board
member Jennifer Beach, who was not serving at the time of the accident. Beach vacated her spot in April 2012; Rob Spenneberg took Beach’s place on the board in September, but was not named in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are suing each of those listed in both “their individual and official capacities.”

Attorney Eric Deters of Independence, Ky. is representing the Cruz and Hollingsworth families.

When asked Friday about the lawsuit, James said she had no comment.

Board of Education attorney James Crawford said Monday he also could not comment on the lawsuit. However, he said he has been cooperating “fully and completely” with the police, investigators and insurance companies.

The liability insurance carrier for Carroll County Schools is Ohio Casualty, he said. That company has chosen Golden andWalters law firm in Lexington, Ky., to represent the school system in this case. Crawford also will be serving in his role as the board attorney. 

According to the circuit clerk’s office, those who have been served with the lawsuit via certified mail as of Monday afternoon are Reed, James and Kindoll.

The plaintiffs allege in the lawsuit that Reed “operated the school bus in excess of the speed limit and in a negligent, reckless, and unsafe manner. As a direct and proximate result of the negligence of Defendant Laura Reed, Plaintiffs Ryleigh Nicole Hollingsworth and Dulce Cruz sustained severe and permanent physical injuries, as well as emotional injuries as are more fully hereinafter set forth.”

According to the lawsuit, Hollingsworth sustained fractures to her collar bone, and Cruz’s injuries included fractures to her left leg.

In count three, the lawsuit states that upon information and belief, the school district and board of education defendants “were responsible for hiring and training of bus drivers operating on behalf of the Carroll County School District (and) had received complaints about the conduct of Defendant, Laura Reed, prior to Oct. 28, 2012, relating to Defendant, Laura Reed’s unsafe driving habits, her intentional disregard for the safety and welfare of the students entrusted to her care, and her fitness for the position as a school bus driver.”

Reed, 59, has served as a Head Start bus driver since she was hired Aug. 1, 1994, and as a cook/baker at Carroll County Middle School since 2000, according to her personnel file, obtained through a Kentucky Open Records request.

In a 2006-07 school year personnel performance evaluation, then-supervisor Pam Williams checked “needs growth” in the categories of “operates within established policy guidelines” and “listens to and accepts instructions.” In the comment section, Williams wrote, “There have been some complaints concerning speed. This is an area Laura needs to focus on to ensure safety. Laura disagrees with this incident.”

There was no record of any incident or complaint brought against Reed during the 2006-07 school year or any other year since she was hired.

In her most recent evaluation for the 2011-12 school year, Head Start Supervisor Pam McNeal graded Reed as satisfactory in all categories and said she was a “hard worker” and “very dependable.”

The plaintiffs demand judgment against the defendants for compensatory damages, award of prejudgment interest, recovery of plaintiffs costs incurred, including reasonable attorney fees, and any and all other relief to which the plaintiffs may appear entitled, according to the lawsuit.