Defense lawyers representing the Newton County Board of Education have answered a class-action lawsuit filed by the father of two children who were among the 40 people sent to the hospital after a two-bus accident in January. The defense denies allegations in the lawsuit and says the BOE is "not the proper party defendant capable of being sued.’’
The suit, filed by Jimmy Coglianese on June 12 in the Superior Court of Newton County, on behalf of his daughters Olivia and Angelina Coglianese and "all others similarly situated," claims the Newton County School System was "negligent in causing the collision, either directly or vicariously, through its bus driver."
The suit lists former Newton County Schools’ superintendent Gary Mathews, and Board of Education members Jeff Meadors, Eddie Johnson, Shakila Henderson-Baker, Almond Turner and Abigail Coggin as defendants.
The suit further claims that the BOE and former superintendent were "responsible for maintaining the school bus in proper operating condition; for hiring, training and maintaining proper drivers; and for the overall operations" and that the Board’s "negligence is a proximate cause of the collision."
Attorneys with Harben, Hartley & Hawkins in Gainesville, representing the BOE and former superintendent Mathews, say in their answer to the lawsuit that "any injury or damages suffered by the plaintiffs were the result of an independent intervening cause" and were "not the result of any alleged negligence or other actions or inactions of defendants."
The answer and responsive pleadings further state that the BOE is "not the proper party defendant capable of being sued."
The Jan. 22 accident happened as bus driver Gloria Inscore, 55, was headed north on Ga. Highway 162 and a second bus stopped in front of her to deliver a student.
Inscore failed to slow, and her bus struck the other bus.
She was cited by the Georgia State Patrol for following too closely, and was fired by the school system in February.
The Coglianeses’ attorney, Salvatore Serio, who has law offices in Conyers, says in the lawsuit that, as a result of the collision between the two buses, Olivia and Angelina Coglianese and other children on the two buses were injured.
The suit was filed as class-action status so that "all persons who were riding on either of the school buses in question who were injured in the incident" could be included as plaintiffs in the case.
But attorneys with Harben, Hartley & Hawkins further state in their answer to the suit that the plaintiffs’ complaint "does not meet the perquisites and requirements for bringing a class action, and this action cannot be maintained as a class action."
According to the lawsuit, Coglianese filed action to "recover for the pain and suffering, medical expenses, punitive damages, and injuries sustained by his children."
But BOE attorneys, in their answer, ask for judgment in favor of the BOE and that the suit be discharged.