Lightfoot Obtains Defense Verdict For Caesars In Mississippi Bus Crash Case

On Wednesday, June 8, 2011, Lightfoot obtained a defense verdict on behalf of BL Development Corp., Grand Casinos, Inc. and Caesar’s Entertainment, Inc. (‘the Grand Casino’) arising out of a bus crash that had occurred in October of 2004. The case, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, involved a charter bus owned and operated by Walters Bus Company of Chicago, IL. The bus was traveling from Chicago to Tunica, Mississippi, where the group planned to stay at the Grand Casino for the weekend. At 5:00 a.m. the bus, while passing through Arkansas, left the road and rolled over. The passengers were ejected when the roof came off. 15 were killed and 14 were injured.

The plaintiffs claimed that Walters Bus was negligent in its operation of the bus and that the Grand Casino was vicariously liable for Walters Bus’s negligence. The plaintiffs originally filed suit in Cook County, Illinois, but the claims against the Grand Casino were dismissed based upon the Court’s determination that it lacked jurisdiction over the Grand Casino and its determination that no agency relationship existed. Therefore, the plaintiffs pursued their claims against the Grand Casino in Mississippi Federal Court. Prior to Lightfoot’s involvement, the Mississippi Federal Court sanctioned the Grand Casino for discovery violations. The sanction established an agency relationship between Walters Bus and the Grand Casino as a matter of law. The Court ruled that trial would proceed on the issues of whether Walters Bus was negligent and the extent of plaintiffs’ damages, and that the Grand Casino could not attempt to convince the jury that the accident was not its fault. After the sanction, Chartis Insurance (formerly AIG) retained Lightfoot as lead trial counsel. Because the sanction order was entered after the close of discovery and the former defense counsel never defended Walters Bus (which was not a party) or the underlying cause of the accident, the defense had no liability experts.

The court scheduled a liability trial to last one week, and three successive damages trials in June, July and August. We proceeded to trial, and our only argument was to argue burden of proof. After one and a half hours of deliberations, the jury returned a defense verdict.

The Grand Casino was represented by Lee Hollis, Adam Peck, Kevin Clark, Madeline Haikala and John Baker of Lightfoot, and Cal Mayo of Mayo Mallette PLLC and Ken Coghlan of Rayburn Coghlan Law Firm from Oxford, MS. The plaintiffs were represented by Shawn Kasserman of Corboy and Demetrio, Bernard R. Nevoral of Bernard R. Nevoral and Associates, Ltd., Marvin Brustin and Milo Lundblad of Brustin and Lundblad, Ltd., James D. Montgomery, Jr. of James D. Montgomery and Associates, Ltd., Glen J. Dunn of Glen J. Dunn and Associates, Ltd., all of Chicago, and Jason Shelton and Brandon Leslie of Shelton and Associates, P.A.