MOULTRIE, Ga. (WALB) - More steps must take place before a judge will decide whether a lawsuit against Colquitt County School System will move forward.
This was decided in a Tuesday hearing involving the parents of two boys hit by a car in 2018 as they were getting on the bus in Colquitt County.
Noah Palmer died and Dylan Wolfe was seriously injured.
Monica Cutts was convicted. Cutts pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle in 2019.
She’s serving five years in prison with the possibility of parole.
She was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and given probation time.
Amanda and Michael Wolfe, the brothers’ parents, list Cutts, the school district, the bus driver and the designer of the bus route in their civil suit.
Here’s what happened in court Tuesday:
Sovereign immunity protects governmental entities, like a school system, when they’re sued. Official immunity protects employees of a government entity.
The Wolfe family claims the school district failed to provide a safe location for school bus pick up.
The family claimed the bus driver failed to look out or signal students that it was safe to cross.
In this case, Apresh Paul, the school district’s attorney, said these claims don’t hold up, because they are discretionary duties.
“That’s a matter of Mr. (Wallace) Bailey’s exercise of his own person deliberation his own personal judgment where he has to sit down and figure out what has to be done,” Paul said of the bus driver. “Those kinds of acts do not give rise to a claim against a public official.”
Paul said Cutts is solely responsible.
“That your honor, we believe should resolve the entire case, but it should resolve the sovereign immunity cause her striking the kids with her own car would not be the use of the bus,” Paul argued at the Tuesday hearing. “The sole cause is her striking the kids.”
Christopher Rodd, the Wolfes’ attorney, said if the kids didn’t have to cross the road, this wouldn’t have happened.
“The bus was there at the presence and absence of the bus being there and ready for the kids to get on the school bus, they wouldn’t have been there on the street,” Rodd said.
Paul motioned to eliminate five out of seven allegations the Wolfe family made.
Rodd argued the school district is doing this to suppress evidence.
“It dawned on me the reason why they want to do that is because they don’t want any discovery on that issue. They don’t want us to ask the questions and allow the Wolfes to get the information they need to determine what happened to their child and how it can be prevented again,” Rodd said.
Rodd said they want to proceed with the discovery phase. Discovery is where attorneys can collect sworn testimony to help with a case.
“We are wanting the court to deny their motion and allow us to reopen discovery lift that stays so we can proceed with this case,” he said.
The investigation file states Cutts was texting while driving, right before the crash.
Cutts told officers in an interview she was very drowsy that morning when driving home from Tallahassee, Fla.
“I mean, I’ve been under, under a lot of stress caused I haven’t had much sleep in the past couple of days. It’s been a little crazy,” Cutts said.
Cutts attributed this to late shifts at work.
The file states the school bus was stopped, amber lights were on, and the stop arm was activated before the crash. Troopers used video to determine this.
The file states “Ms. Cutts’ actions are the direct cause of Noah Palmer’s death and serious injury to Dylan Wolfe.”