The family of a child hit last month by an 18-wheeler has served the driver and the transportation company with a lawsuit, asking for at least one million dollars in damages.
On the afternoon of June 11, six-year-old Elgin ISD student Jairo Labra was exiting an EISD school bus when he was clipped by an 18-wheeler, driven by Asnay Perez Noda for Roka Carrier, LLC.
Labra was coming home after summer school to his house on U.S. Highway 290 east of Elgin, about half a mile west of the intersection with FM 696. At around 4:15 p.m., the school bus was stopped in the outer westbound lane of Highway 290 with flashing lights activated and stop sign extended, signaling for vehicles behind the bus to stop. According to the Texas Transportation Code, when a school bus is stopped, even on a highway, to receive or discharge students, drivers are required to stop until the school bus resumes driving, the bus driver signals the drivers to proceed or the bus’ signals are turned off.
As Labra started to exit the bus, the bus driver held him back for a moment and looked in the mirror to make sure that traffic had come to a stop before allowing Labra to exit, officials say video footage from the school bus shows.
A truck-tractor semi-trailer was also traveling westbound on Highway 290, driven by Perez Noda. According to the crash report from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the driver of the truck failed to stop for the bus, took “faulty evasive action” and drove onto the shoulder of Highway 290. After driving onto the shoulder, the vehicle crossed into a driveway and, instead of hitting the bus, struck Labra as he was heading towards his home, throwing him into the ditch with non-incapacitating injuries.
The TxDOT report concluded a post-crash inspection by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) showed both the truck and the trailer had defective brakes at the time of the crash.
The crash report also said Perez Noda was charged with failing to stop or remain stopped for a school bus.
Labras was transported to Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin by helicopter to be treated for his injuries, where he stayed overnight and was discharged the next day.
His parents were on the scene at the time, and Perez Noda stayed on the scene. The vehicle sustained some damage after driving into the drainage ditch on the side of the road.
On July 3, Gerardo Labra—on behalf of Jairo—and Sonia Huitron, his mother, filed a lawsuit in the Travis County District Court against Austin-based Roka Carrier, Perez Noda and Angel Rafael Carrazana, the owner of Roka Carrier. The family is represented by Thomas J. Henry Law, while Roka Carrier is represented by the Castagna Scott law firm.
Citing the DPS investigation of the accident, the plaintiffs’ petition states Jairo Labras’ collision with the tractor trailer caused him to sustain “severe physical and emotional injuries and damages.”
The lawsuit accuses Perez Noda of gross negligent conduct resulting in Labras’ injuries, violating his duty to exercise “ordinary care” of his vehicle in one or more ways: failing to apply the brakes in a timely manner to avoid the collision; driving at too high a rate of speed; driving inattentively; failing to maintain control of the vehicle; failing to stop the vehicle in time; failing to blow his horn to warn of an imminent collision; failing to keep a proper lookout; or failing to properly inspect and maintain the vehicle and its brakes.
The family is asking for at least one million dollars in damages from the accident, including past and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, medical expenses, impairment and disfigurement.
The petition includes a bystander claim for Huitron, who was at the scene during the accident, waiting for her son to arrive at the bus stop. As a result, watching her son being struck by the truck caused her to suffer severe mental and emotional anguish, the claim said.
A few days later, the defendants submitted their response, issuing a general denial and requiring the plaintiffs to prove each of their allegations. The defendants also said the accident in June was unavoidable and not caused by any acts, omissions or negligence on the part of Roka Carrier or Perez Noda.
The document further says the plaintiffs are not entitled to recover punitive or exemplary damages against Roka Carrier or the driver.
The defendants declined to comment on a case in litigation. On Friday, the defendants submitted an amended answer; the Courier requested the document but did not receive it by press time. Check the story on www.elgincourier.com for updates.