Patricia Marxmiller's life was changed in an instant one February afternoon in 2015. She was crossing the street in a crosswalk at an intersection when she was struck by a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) bus. The bus had been making a right turn when it ran into Marxmiller. The bus was being driven by Seth Stevens. Stevens said in a statement that he thought it was clear when he made the turn. After he struck Marxmiller, he called 911 and rendered aid, using "as a tourniquet to try and stop her bleeding and trying to keep her conscious while waiting for medical assistance to arrive." She ended up losing both her legs as a result of the accident. She spent over a month in the hospital recovering from her injuries.
Marxmiller and her husband filed suit against the bus company shortly after the accident. The News-Gazette reported that her attorney told the jury during opening statements that "Marxmiller is now permanently disabled and wheelchair-bound, will never walk again without a walker, will never return to a job she loved and suffers pain not only in several areas of her body but phantom pain and emotional distress." The trial began in August of 2016. MTD argued against high damages, stating that while her loss was substantial, she had not died. However, the jury sided with Marxmiller and awarded her $9.85 million in damages. In addition, it awarded her husband $450,000. It is unclear it MTD will appeal.
While Marxmiller survived her bus accident, Alice Stanley and Paula Hahn did not. In 2013, the two women were on a tour bus chartered by the Choktaw Casino which is located in Durant, Oklahoma. According, to Courthouse News Service, "[c]asino gambling is illegal in Texas, so many casino operators in Louisiana and Oklahoma provide charter buses to draw customers from Dallas and Fort Worth." The Cardinal Coach Line bus was driving through Irving, Texas headed for the casino when the driver, Loyd Rieve, lost control of the bus, causing it to crash into a concrete barrier, and flip onto its side. Hahn and another passenger died at the scene, while Stanley passed away several days later. The bus driver "told authorities he may have blacked out in the moments before the crash." At trial, earlier this year witnesses gave testimony that Rieve "was distracted before the crash." This was not the first fatal accident that Rieve had been in. In 1998, he was driving another bus when he struck and killed a pedestrian who had stopped to aid another driver. However, in that case, the pedestrian was found to be mostly at fault for the accident.
The families of Stanley and Hahn filed suit. According to the Star-Telegram, "[t]he plaintiffs' attorneys argued that the Native American tribe was responsible for the “negligence” of Taylor, Cardinal Coach Line and Rieve, who were acting as agents for the Choctaw Nation but were not reasonably trained and supervised to enforce passenger safety on the charter bus they hired to bring elderly gamblers to their casino." The Choktaw Nation disputed this agency argument, stating the responsible parties were the bus company and the driver. In addition, they argued that the question of agency is a question of law and not fact, so it should have been decided by the judge and not the jury.
The jury sided with Stanley and Hahn, finding the Choktaw Nation at fault. In assigning blame for the crash, the jury found the Choktaw Nation 25% responsible, Rieve to be 58% to blame, and the Cardinal Coach Line was found to be 17% responsible for the accident. The jury awarded the families of the victims $10.9 million in damages.
The Choktaw Nation plans to appeal the case.