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City Seeks Damages After Bus Lost In Fire

(CN)- A city that financed a bus for a local nonprofit says that the bus manufacturer is responsible for damages after the bus caught fire outside of a shopping mall.

As described in a complaint filed in Broward County Circuit Court on Sept. 30, the City of Deerfield Beach, Fla. has a longstanding relationship with the non-profit organization, Focal Point, which provides a range of services intended to enhance the quality of life of the senior citizens.

In return for proving Focal Point with grants-in-aid and supporting its fundraising activities, the organization runs the city's senior services center, known as the Northeast Focal Point Center.

Focal Point also receives funding from a host of other governmental entities, including Florida's state government.

In 2009, the state Department of Transportation gave Focal Point a grant to purchase two vehicles for the Deerfield Beach senior center.

In its complaint, the city says Focal Point bought a 2010 Chevrolet C4500 Tital Bus from defendant Getaway Marketing, a dealer and distributor of vehicles manufactured by Glaval Bus, a division of defendant Forest River.

Getaway Marketing installed automatically-retracting electric steps at the passenger door of the bus. The electric door header for the bus was made by defendant A&M Systems.

"On the afternoon of October 1, 2012, the bus was off-loading passengers at the Deerfield Beach Mall when smoke and sparks started coming out from the top of the passenger door," the complaint says. "Although the driver and passengers were able to exit the Bus safely, the Bus caught fire, became completely engulfed in flames and was destroyed."

The city says it paid $14,850 for repairs, and an additional $736.70 to replace the bus passengers' personal belongings that were destroyed.

The city also has to replace the bus, which costs $85,402.50.

"On October 15, 2012, an independent engineering firm studied the remains of the Bus to determine the cause of the fire. The investigating engineer concluded that the fire originated in the cabinet, at the front right portion of the Bus, where aftermarket wiring for the electric steps had been installed and routed."

The city also found that the bus step wiring was not wire properly.

After the fire, the city contacted Getaway Marketing, because the policy stated that warranty claims should be made through Getaway Marketing. However, the city says, even after several attempts to reach the company, it received no response.

Getaway Bus responded in a letter in April 2013, disputing the city's claim, saying they weren't responsible.

But that November, defendants Forest River and A&M Systems issued a safety recall notice saying that electric door headers created between 2009 and 2010 could increase the risk of fire.

The city sued the defendants for breach of implied warranty of merchantability, breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, negligence, strict liability, and equitable subrogation.

Defendant Getaway Marketing was dissolved in 2011 "for failure to file an annual report with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations," the complaint states.

Tucker Craig of Billing, Cochran, Lyles, Mauro & Ramsey represents the city.

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