CMS doesn’t have to pay after bus hits man’s parked car, court says

CHARLOTTE — A school bus crashed into a parked car but because it was during the pandemic, the courts said the district doesn’t have to compensate the owner of the vehicle.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency at the beginning of the pandemic.

Four days later, Cooper issued another executive order, which closed schools.

The schools were obligated to provide meals for students in need, which meant using school buses to deliver food.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus driver was delivering meals when he crashed into a parked car on Wellingford Street in north Charlotte.

The car’s owner, Michael, was so upset about the experience, that he asked Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke not to identify him.

He wanted the district to take responsibility, so he filed a claim with the state agency that handles claims involving school bus wrecks, the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

He won, but CMS appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Michael represented himself, but not by choice.

“A lot of law firms wouldn’t take the case with me, not being personally injured,” he told Stoogenke.

He won the case again.

CMS asked the court for another hearing, and it agreed, ruling in favor of the district.

CMS, which is a government entity, is immune from liability because it was performing an emergency management function under the North Carolina Emergency Act after the governor declared the state of emergency.

The district is not liable for damaging property or hurting someone, even death unless there was willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Michael said. “They hit my car. You know what I’m saying? They totaled my car. Put me in this situation.”

So, the government doesn’t owe Michael anything.

But he did get a $263 bill for court costs.

“Right is right. Wrong is wrong,” he told Stoogenke. “I just felt like no one was showing good faith.”

He’s deciding whether to appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Action 9 asked CMS officials if they wanted to comment on the court ruling.

The district sent a statement to Channel 9 saying: “Property damage claims arising from an incident involving a school bus, including the payment of damages, are handled by the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, not public school systems. This is pursuant to state statute – the NC Tort Claims Act.”

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office said they wouldn’t discuss the case until it’s over.

Michael only had liability coverage on his car, so the damage wasn’t covered.

That is why motorists should have full coverage if they can afford it, Stoogenke said.

Stoogenke reiterated that the wreck happened during a declared state of emergency. The government doesn’t have immunity if it’s a regular emergency. First responders going to a call must act reasonably in the situation and exercise a certain amount of care.

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