Settlement reached in Tennessee bus crash that killed Statesville residents

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The families of members of a Statesville church who were killed in a fiery 2013 bus crash have reached a confidential settlement, their attorneys said Tuesday.

Georgia-based law firm Butler Wooten & Peak LLP settled five wrongful-death cases and 12 significant personal injury cases for an undisclosed amount as the trial proceeded in Iredell County Superior Court.

The bus was filled with members of Front Street Baptist Church when it crashed Oct. 2, 2013, after it blew a tire on Interstate 40 in Tennessee. Of the people killed, five were members of the church. They were returning from a church gathering in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The case involved the failure of a Hankook brand tire on the front left wheel of the bus. The suit was filed in Iredell County in September 2014. It alleged design and manufacturing defects by the New Jersey-based tire company.

Shortly after the case was filed, Hankook Tire Co. tried to move the case to federal court. The plaintiffs filed a motion and the case was moved back to Iredell County Superior Court in January 2015, where it had been litigated since, the law firm said in a statement.

The attorneys said for more than three year,s the tire company tried to blame Randy Morrison, the bus driver, for the crash. Morrison and his wife, Barbara, were both killed in the crash.

“Hankook finally relented and abandoned that defense the week before the trial,” attorneys for the firm said.

The trial began Jan. 16 and was temporarily side-tracked when Hankook Tire again attempted to move the case to federal court on Jan. 18, just days after the court heard arguments on a motion for sanctions filed by the plaintiffs.

According to court filings, the plaintiffs were seeking a default judgment against Hankook Tire for concealing crucial evidence for more than two years. The plaintiffs’ attorneys filed an emergency motion to remand the case to Iredell County on Jan. 20. The motion was granted on Jan. 22 by Chief District Judge Frank D. Whitney.

On the eve of opening statements, Hankook settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

“The settlement ends a case that has been extensively litigated for more than three years. The settlement also secured closure for the surviving passengers and family members of those deceased in the Oct. 2, 2013, bus crash,” the attorneys said.

Three lawsuits relating to the bus crash remain pending in Iredell County Superior Court.

They include one by Stacy Farmer, administrator of the estate of Moses Farmer, who was driving a tractor-trailer transporting paper towels from Georgia.

Another case names Bobby Roberts as administrator of the estate of Trent Roberts of Knoxville, who was driving a sport utility vehicle and was killed in the crash. The third case is for the estate of Randolph Morrison.