DALLAS (CN) - Greyhound Lines will pay $6 million to settle claims by five bus passengers injured in a rollover collision, after its bus driver was subjected to the first known court-ordered sleep study to test for sleep apnea.
Lead plaintiff Ruthie Allen, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, sued the Dallas-based bus company, Motor Coach Industries International Inc., Firstgroup America and driver Dwayne Garrett for negligence in Dallas County Court in 2013. The victims are from 17 to 64 years old and have injuries ranging from compound fractures to back and neck injuries.
Allen claimed Garrett "fell asleep or lost consciousness at the wheel" while speeding on Interstate 70 during the trip from Cincinnati to Detroit on Sept. 14, 2013. The bus flipped over "several times before it came to rest in a corn field at least 100 feet off the highway."
Plaintiffs' attorney Ryan Zehl, of Houston, announced the settlement on Tuesday, saying it "will bring needed awareness to the catastrophic consequences of untreated obstructive sleep apnea in commercial drivers."
The plaintiffs claimed that a month before the crash, a U.S. Department of Transportation medical examiner suspected Garrett had sleep apnea and recommended an overnight sleep study and a limitation on his driver certificate for three months.
"Despite these warnings, Greyhound never had the driver tested for sleep apnea and claimed, instead, that the driver lost consciousness after choking on a sip of coffee while driving the bus," Zehl's office said in a statement Tuesday. "In April 2015, Mr. Zehl obtained an order from the trial court requiring the driver to undergo the overnight sleep study.
"Greyhound, seeking to avoid the testing, appealed the court's decision, but the court of appeals upheld the trial court's ruling and allowed the testing to proceed. The study confirmed that the driver had moderate to severe sleep apnea, as the lawsuit alleged."
Zehl said this is the first time plaintiffs have obtained orders from both a trial court and appellate court requiring a commercial driver to undergo an overnight sleep study.
"Our hope is that these rulings will help prevent future fatigue-related collisions by encouraging bus and trucking companies to be more proactive when screening for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders that, when untreated, place passengers and the motoring public at serious harm," he said.
Greyhound declined to comment on the settlement Wednesday afternoon.
"Because our settlements are usually confidential we cannot respond," the company said.
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