Brother of Pedestrian Killed by Dade School Bus Sues School Board, Driver

February 21, 2019

The brother of a pedestrian killed by a Dade County school bus is suing the bus driver and the Dade County Board of Education for wrongful death.


Photo: Obituary photo of Linda Diane Hulgan) 


Linda Diane Hulgan, 71, of Wildwood, was struck by an empty school bus almost exactly a year ago, on Feb. 20, 2018, while crossing Highway 136 on foot at its main Trenton intersection with Highway 11. She died two days later at Erlanger of injuries sustained in the accident.


In a complaint dated Nov. 30, 2018, Roger Hulgan of Cumberland County, Tenn., suing individually and as executor of his sister's estate, alleges that the accident was caused by the negligence of the bus driver, Angela Payne, and charges additionally that the school system was aware she was unfit to drive a commercial vehicle and was thus also at fault in the accident.


The complaint says Ms. Payne failed to keep a proper lookout, did not exercise ordinary diligence and was "diving [sic] in a reckless disregard for the safety of others." 


Furthermore, the document also states, "Defendant, Angela Taylor Payne, was not skilled at driving a commercial motor vehicle and Defendant, Dade County Board of Education, had actual knowlege of her lack of skill and yet hired her to drive a school bus."


The complaint asks for compensatory, special and punitive damages in an unspecified amount for Ms. Hulgan's hospital and funeral expenses as well as her "bodily injury, fright, terror, pain and suffering," as well as "additional damages constituting the full value of the life of Linda Diane Hulgan." 


The attorneys listed for the Hulgans are J. Craig Lewis and Bob Wharton of Wettermark & Keith LLC of Birmingham, Ala.


Timothy A. Raimey and Charles Medlin of Bovis, Kyle, Burch & Medlin of Atlanta are listed as the attorneys representing both Ms. Angela Payne and the Dade County Board of Education. In both their answers to the complaint against Ms. Payne and against the school board, filed Jan. 10 and 4, respectively, they claim that Ms. Hulgan was "contributorily negligent" in the accident.


The answers were terser than the complaint, and did not explain how precisely a pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk had contributed through negligence to her own demise.   


But they do deny negligence on the part of either driver or the board of education, stating, on behalf of the latter: "No act or omission either proximately caused or contributed to the injury or death of Linda Diane Hulgan," as well as: "The complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."


The Feb. 20, 2018, accident that ended Ms. Hulgan's life was investigated by the Georgia State Patrol's accident reconstruction team. The Planet has requested a copy of the final results of that investigation and will duly convey those to its readers when they become available.


Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of Dade Schools, did not wish to comment on ongoing litigation but pointed out that a grand jury had cleared Ms. Payne of any wrongdoing in the incident. She said Ms. Payne had resigned as a driver but was still working for the school system as a bus aide.


And the super fiercely defended Dade school bus drivers, who she said were all well able to do their jobs. "They're all cleared and credentialed and they all have professional learning," said Dr. Harris. "They're all fully competent or they wouldn't be working at this time."


A trial is scheduled in this matter for October 2019.

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