Injured bus passengers sue GPS manufacturers over 2013 crash

By Land Line staff | Monday, February 09, 2015

Two GPS device manufacturers are being sued by 11 Pennsylvania residents who were injured in a 2013 crash involving a charter bus and Boston overpass.

The lawsuit seeks more than $15 million in damages from TomTom NV, Garmin International Inc., and their subsidiaries, alleging the companies sold GPS units to consumers without warning against their use on commercial vehicles, according to a report in The Boston Globe.

The suit, which was filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that TomTom and Garmin “acted in disregard of a foreseeable and foreseen risk of serious injury to passengers in vehicles who were sent on roadways with height restrictions at the direction” of the GPS devices, according to The Globe report.

The crash occurred at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2013 when the 11-foot-high bus collided with the Western Avenue Bridge while traveling on Soldiers Field Road in Boston. The bus driver reportedly told police he was “following the GPS”, despite the fact that Soldiers Field Road is off-limits to vehicles in excess of 10-feet high. A total of 35 people were injured when the roof of the bus collapsed backward, causing luggage racks and television monitors to fall on the heads and necks of the passengers. The passengers included a group of high school students and their chaperones from the Philadelphia area who were visiting Harvard University.

One of the plaintiffs, then 16-year-old Matthew Cruz, suffered a serious injury to his spinal cord, resulting in partial paralysis, according to the report.

The suit also alleges that at least one sign warning of the height restrictions was missing or damaged and that construction on the Harvard Street overpass obstructed other warning signs.

The bus driver is believed to have had two GPS devices with him at the time of the crash, but neither was designed for use in commercial vehicles. The GPS models cited in the complaint do not warn about height restrictions, do not warn against their use in commercial vehicles, or give drivers the option to enter the height of their vehicle in order to avoid height-restricted roadways, the suit alleges.

The driver of the bus, Samuel J. Jackson, was acquitted in municipal court last September of a criminal charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, although a judge found him civilly liable for operating a bus on a restricted roadway and for failing to obey road signs, according to the The Globe.

A month after the crash, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued official recommendations for GPS systems approved for use in commercial vehicles to reduce accidents caused by low bridges. The agency also created visor cards to warn commercial vehicle drivers about the dangers of using GPS systems that lack instructions about low bridges, according to reports.

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