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AP

Norris school district to pay damages for bus crash

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A Lincoln judge has found a Norris school bus driver more to blame than a pickup driver for a crash in 2009 and ordered the school district to pay the pickup driver more than three quarters of a million dollars.

Jeff Hall was left with severe injuries, and nearly two dozen students were hurt Aug. 24, 2009, when their bus collided with Hall's pickup at a rural intersection where a stop sign was missing and visibility was blocked by tall corn.

Hall sued Lancaster County and the Norris School District the following year, saying he incurred more than $357,000 in medical expenses.

District Judge Steven Burns originally found the school district 50 percent liable for the crash, the county 20 percent liable and Hall 30 percent. He awarded Hall $1.1 million, reduced to $770,000 to account for his liability.

In April, the Nebraska Supreme Court cleared the county from responsibility for the missing stop sign and sent the case back to Lancaster County District Court.

Last week, Burns again entered judgment in Hall's favor for $770,000.

But this time, the Norris School District alone will have to pay.

"This was a tragic occurrence for all involved. There is no joy in prevailing, just recognition that Jeff can start to put his life back together," attorney Vince Powers said.

In his order, Burns said Hall has had 10 surgeries and still has an open wound, a limp and faces the possibility that his left leg will have to be amputated.

And the judge, once again, found school bus driver Ronnie Aden more to blame for the crash than Hall.

He said Aden knew the intersection was blind but entered it at 50 mph, the posted speed limit. Hall wasn't familiar with the intersection and slowed as he approached, but should have slowed more.

"The plaintiff was attempting to do what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances," Burns said.

"The bus driver, on the other hand, did the opposite of what a reasonable person would have done. He accelerated into an intersection he knew to be blind and uncontrolled, reaching the maximum permissible speed before he entered the intersection," the judge wrote.

Burns said there wouldn't have been a crash at all if the bus had been going just 2 seconds slower.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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