Crime & Courts

Trial to open in death of football fan

LAWRENCE — Jury selection began Tuesday for a civil trial in the death of a Kansas man who was fatally injured while riding in a privately owned bus carrying Kansas State University football fans.

John Green of Shawnee hit his head on an overpass in Lawrence as he stood on the upper deck of the Cat Tracker bus on Nov. 18, 2006. The bus was carrying 22 passengers to a Wildcats game at the University of Kansas.

Green's widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Briggs Auto Group of Manhattan, which modified the one-time school bus but sold it before the accident. The lawsuit claims the company was responsible for putting an unsafe vehicle on the road.

Police estimated the bus was traveling at up to 40 mph. According to court documents, four passengers standing near the front of the upper deck saw the approaching overpass and ducked, but those standing at the back couldn't see the overpass.

Out-of-court settlements were reached previously with some of the nearly dozen initial defendants as well as a Salina man who was critically injured in the accident but survived. The settlements remain sealed as part of the court file.

James Thompson, the attorney for plaintiff Samantha Green, questioned prospective jurors in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday about their knowledge of the accident and whether they know any of the people involved in the wrongful death suit.

Several prospective jurors admitted they had driven by the accident scene the morning of the Kansas-Kansas State game. One woman said she had seen the bus before the accident and thought "it didn't look quite right."

Court records show Briggs Auto Group bought a yellow school bus in August 2003 and converted it into the Cat Tracker. It owned the bus until February 2005.

The lawsuit claims Briggs was responsible for having the bus modified in a negligent manner and sold it "in a dangerous and defective condition" when it knew how the bus would be used.

Briggs Auto Group also serviced and inspected the vehicle on June 15, 2005.