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Update: Negligence suits filed over Kansas City party bus death

State and federal officials have lambasted operators of a Kansas company since May when a young mother died fell to her death from a party bus. Transportation officials agreed that safety practices at Midnight Express were at least "appalling" and at worst "practically nonexistent."

Federal transportation investigators forced the company they called "an imminent hazard" to cease operations.

The party bus was a death trap for the 26-year-old victim. The woman and several others were aboard the rented bus to celebrate a friend's upcoming wedding. A side door allegedly "flew open" as the bus hit a bump on a Kansas City interstate. The woman fell through the door into traffic where she died after being struck repeatedly.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in July on behalf of the victim's infant daughter. The decedent's estate filed a second, separate claim at the same time. Defendants in the suits are Midnight Express, a trio of bus operators and the driver who was behind the wheel at the time of the fatal accident.

Investigators said the secondhand bus was heavily modified. The operators apparently removed vital safety features. Inspectors said emergency exits were deficient or blocked. An ice box was placed in front an "inoperable" rear door. Among other violations, the bus leaked exhaust fumes and had faulty brakes.

The lawsuits claim the driver closed the side doors from the inside after loading a cooler onto the bus before the accident. The same doors allegedly burst open causing the victim to be "sucked" out.

Reports did not specify the damages the plaintiffs were seeking. An attorney representing the victim's family indicated punitive damages were warranted.

With supporting evidence, a civil jury could determine that the defendants were all negligent. A court could also decide that fault was greater for some defendants more than others. A damage award would reflect the percentage of negligence for each defendant.

Source: kansascity.com, "Wrongful-death lawsuit filed in fatal fall from party bus" Tony Rizzo, Jun. 18, 2013

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