N. Ridgeville woman's car hit head-on by school bus, district won't cover damage

School district claims "sovereign immunity"

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio - Lily Currie of North Ridgeville is now on the market for a new car, after her old car was wiped out by an on-coming school bus.

The school bus driver was at fault, and was issued a ticket by police, but now the school district's insurance company won't cover her car claiming "municipal sovereign immunity."

"The only thing going through my mind is 'I'm going to die,' I was going 35 [miles per hour], I had no time to react," explained Currie. "He waited until I was in the middle of the intersection in the on-coming traffic to start a left hand turn right in front of me."

"They're saying sovereign immunity, they're immune because it's a government municipality and it's my problem, they hit me and it's my problem."

Fortunately the school bus was empty, and Currie wasn't seriously hurt, however her car is total loss.

Currie is concerned the claim on her insurance will cause he rates to jump, and she worried she'll have to add hundreds of dollars to her car, based on her old car's "fair market value." 

Currie contacted the 5 On Your Side Solutions Center looking for some help, and NewsChannel5 contacted the North Ridgeville school district.

The district responded immediately, and reports it will pay for Currie's car insurance deductible, pay for any uncovered medical expenses and her rental car.

The district issued the following statement in response to our story:

"North Ridgeville City Schools has followed protocol in regards to the accident that occurred on March 10th.  It is routine for a drug and alcohol test of the bus driver to be completed when an accident occurs. This was done and the results came back negative. Larry has worked for the District several years as a substitute bus driver and has been a great driver for the District.

The appropriate steps have been taken by the District. We have handled this through our insurance company which is now working with the other party. This is the typical procedure in resolving any accident that involves a school vehicle." 

However the district will not cover Currie's car, citing "municipal sovereign immunity," under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2744 , which absolves city vehicles and drivers of liability in accidents, even if the accident is the fault of the city driver.

The law was created to protect cities and taxpayer money from the burden of large legal settlements, at a time when all cities are facing reduced revenues and state and federal funding cuts.

However, the law does set up some tough legal situations, and Currie believes sovereign immunity allows city drivers to be held to a lower standard of accountability and responsibility.

"My husband said if I were to hit you in this situation my insurance would pay for it," said Currie "You hit my wife, your insurance should pay for it, and they simply said 'we don't understand.'"

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