Ohio Court Ruling Could Impact School Bus Accident Liability in Philadelphia

The Ohio Supreme Court’s recent ruling on a fatal 2007 bus accident has the potential to impact school athletic programs and change school transportation policies in Philadelphia and throughout the country, thepearcelawfirm.com cautioned. In a 5-2 decision, Ohio’s highest court ruled that in the 2007 bus accident that killed 7 people, including 5 members of the Bluffton University baseball team, the bus driver and his wife, the university’s insurance policy extended to vehicles that are “owned, hired or borrowed” by the school and that the university’s insurance company was liable for accident costs.

The ruling sent shock waves through the nation’s university and high school communities. Universities and many high schools often hire private buses to transport athletic teams, band members, choral music students and other school groups to games, competitions and special events. Prior to the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, the transportation provider has been assumed to be liable for accidents in which their vehicles are involved, The Pearce Law Firm explained. Extension of a school’s liability to include accidents incurred by hired vehicles during transportation of students to school-sanctioned events could be a game changer.

The Ohio ruling creates a precedent that could potentially be applied to similar accidents in Philadelphia and elsewhere, Philadelphia personal injury lawyers said. There is considerable concern, particularly in the athletic community, that the additional accident liability could cause high schools and colleges to curtail offsite events, including sports competitions.

The tragic bus accident that precipitated the ruling occurred in 2007. The Bluffton University baseball team was en route to a tournament in Florida when the driver of their hired bus mistook an Atlanta freeway exit ramp for a carpool lane and sent the bus crashing through a barrier fence and onto the highway below. Five players, the bus driver and his wife were killed and several other players sustained serious personal injuries.