Blind World Magazine

Lawsuit over boy left in bus capped at $300,000.

February 14, 2006.
Montgomery Advertiser (AL).

A blind and mute boy left on a city-owned bus last spring can receive no more than $300,000 in damages if he should win his case, a Montgomery judge ruled Monday.

Christian Moore, 13, will be in Circuit Court on Wednesday for jury selection in his case against the city of Montgomery and three city workers. He was left on a Parks and Recreation bus for more than an hour after a field trip in April.

Christian and his mother, Thelma Richardson, were seeking unlimited damages before the hearing before Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey.

McCooey also ruled that the city employees didn't intentionally leave Christian on the bus, but left it up to the jury to decide if the employees were negligent.

Bus driver Jennifer Huffel was suspended for five days without pay; Jeannie Russell and Brad Ellis, two workers at the Therapeutic Recreation Center, were each suspended for three days without pay.

The incident has led to a change in policy at the Therapeutic Recreation Center, which serves disabled children. All instructors take responsibility for the children and take more frequent head counts during field trips. Staff members also sit at the rear and in the front of the bus to watch the children.

Christian, who also has cerebral palsy, came into court Monday with his mother and their attorney, Antonio D. Spurling.

Spurling said Christian's disabilities make it impossible to know how the experience affected him.

"This is a very emotional case for Mrs. Richardson ... because she's the heartbeat of this child," he said.

Ed Kendall, who is representing the city, referred all questions to city officials. Michael Briddell, executive assistant to Mayor Bobby Bright, returned a phone call Monday afternoon and referred all calls to City Attorney Walter Byars. He was unavailable for comment.

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