LIBERTY CO., GA (WTOC) - The parents of a 5-year-old killed in a school bus crash in Liberty County in December are suing the bus company and the bus driver for her death.
Attorneys from Jones, Osteen and Jones Law Firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of 5-year-old Cambria Shuman's parents, Brandie Smith and Kristopher Shuman, seeking damages from Blue Bird Corporation and bus driver Evelyn Rodriguez for personal injury and wrongful death. The lawsuit also demands a jury trial.
"Cambria Shuman's death has shaken her family to its core," said Attorney Carl R. Varnedoe, who is representing Cambria's parents. "Cami's parents have filed suit to establish the truth of why their daughter is gone. They are human beings and have suffered an unimaginable loss of unprecedented proportion."
The suit states the bus company sold Liberty County Schools a defective 2016 model bus as a new product.
"Specifically, at approximately 6:52 a.m. on December 5, 2017, and for several preceding seconds, the Blue Bird Bus suddenly and unintentionally accelerated," the suit states. "A defect or defects existed in the Blue Bird Bus which prohibited the proper and timely exchange, recognition, reaction and/or response to engine speed, engine speed rotations per minute ("rpm"), engine load percentage, throttle percentage, acceleration and/or manual gear downshifting data between the Blue Bird Bus's operator, Evelyn Rodriguez, and the Blue Bird Bus's engine, transmission, throttle or accelerator and/or brake control module, amongst other components, which caused the Blue Bird Bus to suddenly and unintentionally accelerate, crash and proximately cause Cami Shuman's death."
Attorneys also say in the suit the bus suddenly and unintentionally accelerated from 13 mph to 41 mph in the 21 seconds before the fatal crash and the company 'breached its manufacturing duty by the use of shoddy materials, poor manufacturing methods and/or other such actions or omissions.'
"We are saddened by the loss of Cambria Shuman and our prayers go out to her family," said Justyne Lobello, Product Communications and Marketing Manager for Blue Bird Corporation. "As a matter of policy we do not comment in the press about open litigation, but we can tell you that we have been actively cooperating with Liberty County investigators."
The bus was traveling at 32 miles-per-hour when it hit a tree on the side of the road, according to the suit.
The lawsuit goes on to say, 'Rodriguez mistook the Blue Bird Bus's gas pedal or accelerator for the brake pedal and as a result of the mistake, caused the Blue Bird Bus to accelerate out of control causing the fatal crash and Cami Shuman's death.'
Jeneth Moody is a grandparent to two children who were on the bus during the fatal crash, and she says it was not her first problem with bus driver Evelyn Rodriguez.
"On another occasion, the bus driver put the bus in a ditch, and the children were very scared," Moody said. "On another occasion, she backed over a street sign. She seemed to not have real good control of the bus. There had been complaints made to the bus barn. The parents were told, 'we know she's not the best bus driver, but we are short on bus drivers and she's all we have.'
WTOC reached out Liberty County Schools Superintendent Franklin Perry and Maintenance and Operations Director Jason Rodgers Tuesday to find out if Rodriguez was still employed by the school district and if it will continue to use Blue Bird Corporation buses to transport students. Neither was in the office, and they didn't return our request for comment.