Family files lawsuit after troopers say brothers were hit by car while walking to school bus
MOULTRIE, Ga. (WALB) - A family has filed a lawsuit against the Colquitt County School District (CCSD) after Georgia State Patrol (GSP) troopers said two brothers were hit by a car while walking to get on their school bus.
In an initial incident report, state troopers said Noah Palmer, 10, and Dylan Wolfe, who was seven at the time, were walking across this street to get on their school bus when they got hit by another car.
It happened in October 2018 on Thigpen Trail in Colquitt County.
“The uncle, he called and said that the kids just got hit by a car,” Amanda Wolfe, the boys’ mom, explained through tears. “I just, I lost it. At first, I didn’t believe him.”
Troopers said Noah was killed, and Dylan was seriously hurt.
“It’s hard to talk about Noah,” Wolfe said. “He was an angel that God just gave to us. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.”
Wolfe said that Dylan lived to tell the story of his brother’s last moments, saying the 10-year-old tried to push his little brother out of the way of the car.
“He said that he just remembers Noah screaming, ‘Dylan watch out,’ and felt him push him,” Wolfe said.
The driver of the car, Monica Cutts, pleaded guilty to criminal charges of vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle in 2019.
She is currently serving five years in prison with probation time to follow.
The Wolfe family’s attorney, Christopher Rodd, said they are now suing Cutts, along with the Colquitt County School District (CCSD) and the bus driver.
In the lawsuit filed in Colquitt County Superior Court, the family said they believe negligence by all parties led to the crash.
“It’s kind of our position that had they not had to cross the road, that we would have never had this tragedy,” Rodd said.
The Wolfes claim that the school district failed to provide a safe location for the bus to pick up the boys without them having to cross the street.
Among other claims, the family said they believe the bus driver, Wallace Bailey, did not stop in a safe location and did not report a route or stop that was unsafe for children.
The initial incident report from GSP said the bus did have its warning and stop lights on and stop sign arm extended when the crash happened.
The Wolfes are asking for financial damages in the lawsuit, including more than $284,000 in medical costs.
However, they also said they want change, not only with the Colquitt County School District but across the state.
“No child should have to cross the road to get on the bus,” Wolfe said.
“Every city school system, every county school system, every private school system that buses kids, that they pick them up on the right side of the street, the correct side of the street, so we can ensure that at least they have the potential for safety at that moment,” Rodd said. “It may take a little longer. It may require a few more buses. It may require for us to be inconvenienced a little more if we’re following a school bus, but what is more precious than two children trying to get on the school bus to go to school and learn?”
In court documents, attorneys for CCSD and the bus driver denied any negligence.
They claim that the school district has sovereign immunity, meaning there’s no legal basis to hold the district accountable.
The school district also claims that the crash happened because of an independent intervening cause, and they say the plaintiffs and/or their children did not exercise ordinary care for the children’s safety.
Rodd said his clients and the kids did what was expected of them.
“If they can’t be there because they go to work, they leave a responsible adult in charge, which our clients did,” Rodd said. “The kids were doing what the school system asked them to do. They were at the school bus. They weren’t playing in the street. The school bus had stopped, and the person ran over them as they were trying to get on the school bus.”
The attorneys for CCSD and the bus driver said they did not want to talk about the lawsuit while it is pending in court, but they did send WALB this statement:
“This is a tragic event, including the loss of a young child and injuries to another. The school district and Mr. Bailey mourn with the family and send their deepest sympathies. The person responsible for this tragedy has pled guilty and is serving multiple years in prison. The school district and Mr. Bailey will continue to defend against the allegations in court and have no comment on the pending litigation,” Aparesh Paul, attorney for CCSD, said.
As for the family, they are still coping.
His mom said Dylan is nine now.
She said he is physically okay but still struggles with what happened.
“He healed properly. Everything healed fine, but his mental state is not,” she said. “He has bad nightmares all the time. He has anxiety attacks now.”
While the lawsuit won’t bring Noah back, his family said they hope his legacy will make a difference.
“If the school system changes, or it changes in Georgia, we know that not only was his last push of Dylan out of the way but he’s pushed the school system to do the right thing,” Rodd said.
The family is requesting a jury trial.
Attorneys for the school district filed a motion, asking the judge to dismiss the claims against the district and most of the claims against the bus driver.
There is a hearing on that motion set for Tuesday, April 27, at the Colquitt County Courthouse Annex.
The family also named “John Doe” as a defendant in the case, for whoever designed the school bus routes for the county.
WALB has reached out to Monica Cutts in prison for a statement but hasn’t heard back. WALB has also requested GSP’s full investigative file for the crash, and we are awaiting those documents.
Copyright 2021 WALB. All rights reserved.