Plaintiffs lose in courts over case that casino was liable for fatal charter bus crash

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – A Mississippi casino that offered customers “promo cash” and free meal tickets isn’t liable for the fatal crash of a charter bus they took to get there, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled, rejecting plaintiff arguments a casino employee encouraged the bus to continue on despite bad weather.

There was no evidence the casino was in a joint venture with the charter-bus company or the woman who arranged the trip to the Majestic Mississippi casino, the high court ruled, eliminating any possibility of liability. The casino did require the bus company to be insured but that was to protect itself against liability for accidents in its parking lot, the court said.

“The uncontroverted evidence indicates that Majestic did not arrange for or approve the charter bus; rather, as Majestic’s representative testified, the only role its casino plays regarding charter buses is to verify that those buses are properly insured before entering its property,” the court ruled.

Felecia Sykes sued Majestic on behalf of the estate of Betty Russell, an Alabama resident who was killed after a bus operated by Teague VIP Express slid and overturned in DeSoto County, Miss., en route to the casino in Tunica. The bus was chartered by Linda Parks, who arranged monthly trips to the Majestic and received commissions from the casino based on the “amount of participation” by guests she brough there.

Majestic also offered guests $40 in “promo cash” and one free meal ticket.

On the day of the accident, Parks said she heard someone talk about bad weather and called the casino, which she said told her there was “some weather, nothing bad.” Parks said she told the passengers but they agreed to go anyway. When the bus reached a bridge in Mississippi, Parks said “icy stuff started coming down” and the bus slid, only to skid again and crash.

Later, it emerged the driver had a suspended license.

Sykes sued Majestic, Teague, Parks and the driver, with Teague and the driver settling before trial. The trial judge then dismissed the cases against Majestic and Parks, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the dismissal in a Feb. 16 opinion by Justice William Sellers.

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