Over the course of more than four years, Seeger Weiss LLP’s Chris Seeger and Marc Albert, representing eleven victims of the accident and their families, engaged in an exhaustive discovery process, which included the review of thousands of pages of documents and more than twenty depositions.
In January, 2005, a Windsor Ontario “under 21” female hockey team, the Wildcats, booked a charter bus trip with Coach Canada that would take them from Windsor into Rochester, New York to play in a hockey tournament and to go skiing. The trip was assigned by Coach Canada to Ryan Comfort, a 24 year old inexperienced driver who had only started working for the company the month before.
After driving through the night and watching the Wildcats hockey game from the stands instead of getting much needed rest, Comfort boarded the bus at approximately 4:00 p.m. to take the team on an approximate 1 hour and 20 minute drive up to Swain Ski Hill. Less than 45 minutes later, an exhausted Comfort veered off of the roadway and struck a parked tractor trailer on the shoulder of Interstate 390, near Geneseo, New York. The heavy impact literally split the bus in half, killing four and severely injuring nineteen others. Among the tragic fatalities were the Wildcats’ coach Rick Edwards, his 13 year old son Brian and Cathy Roach, the mother of one of the team’s players, Erin Roach.
Over the course of more than four years, Seeger Weiss LLP’s Chris Seeger and Marc Albert, representing eleven victims of the accident and their families, engaged in an exhaustive discovery process, which included the review of thousands of pages of documents and more than twenty depositions. Through this discovery, Seeger Weiss procured considerable evidence that showed failures on the part of bus company in the hiring, training and supervision of Mr. Comfort. These failures were inexcusable given the 24 year old Comfort’s lack of driving experience.
On June 15, 2009, the first phase of the trial, the liability phase, moved forward before the Hon. Justice Thomas VanStrydonck of the Supreme Court, Livingston County. Following jury selection, Chris Seeger embarked on a captivating opening statement during which he admonished Coach Canada for their “casual” hiring, training and supervision practices and their pattern of sending drivers out on charter trips that exceeded the permissible number of hours under the law. Following opening statements, Trooper Robert Frost, the lead Accident Reconstructionist for the New York State Police gave testimony concerning observations he made at the accident scene and findings he detailed in his reconstruction report. After Trooper Frost, two plaintiffs were called to the stand and gave emotional testimony of their harrowing experience and the tragic results.
Moments after Mr. Seeger advised the Judge that he was calling Ryan Comfort as the next witness, the plaintiffs were advised that the defendants had come to an agreement on a liability split that would ensure that 100% of the plaintiffs’ damages would be accounted for. Coach Canada and its related entities agreed to accept 90% of the liability for the accident with J&J Hauling, the owner of the tractor-trailer agreeing to accept the remaining 10% of the liability. “Admission of liability in this first phase of trial by the defendants was a significant development toward the resolution of years of litigation,” lead trial attorney Chris Seeger said. “The case will now enter a critical new stage in which the magnitude of victims’ losses will be assessed.”
Damages trials, during which juries will be asked to determine fair compensation for the catastrophic and in some cases fatal injuries suffered by the plaintiffs. These trials are expected to be scheduled in the coming months.