The family of a man run over by a Greyhound last summer outside a Central Point travel center is suing the bus line, claiming that the company was negligent.
On June 29, the night Hunter Brown, 25, died outside the Pilot station, the bus driver had been visibly and audibly exhausted and temperamental with passengers, according to a lawsuit filed by Brown's parents Tuesday in Dallas County, Texas, where Greyhound Lines is based.
Charges were never filed against bus driver Arthur Coley Sr. in Brown's death, Jackson County Circuit Court records show.
Portland-based lawyer Jane Paulson, among a team of lawyers representing Brown's parents Paula Becker and Barron Brown of the Seattle area, disagrees with the decision not to take the case to a grand jury, based on passenger reports in an independent investigation of that fateful night.
"My view is, it's awfully reckless," Paulson said.
Before Greyhound's central dispatch assigned Coley to drive in Portland June 28, he'd already driven 9½ hours that day, the complaint says.
During pre-trip announcements in Portland, Coley allegedly told passengers he was "so exhausted he might fall asleep and warning them not to do anything that would further agitate him," according to the complaint.
Passengers reported confrontational and unorthodox behavior on the part of Coley. He was reportedly 90 minutes late taking the Portland bus, abruptly pulled over and left the bus running to make an unscheduled restroom break and had two altercations with passengers that struck some witnesses as "disproportional and hostile."
The bus stopped in Central Point about 1 a.m. for a half-hour meal and rest break. Coley reportedly threatened to leave behind anyone not boarded in time, but at some time prior to the 1:30 a.m. cutoff, Coley honked the horn and started out. Passengers complained that it wasn't 1:30 yet and that some were still inside the truck stop.
"The driver responded that he would 'go by his time, not theirs' and proceeded to pull out of the parking lot," according to the complaint.
Among those nearly left behind was Hunter Brown, who ran up to the side of the bus, banging on the door and asking the driver to let him back on. As it turned right, the bus knocked Brown off balance, causing him to fall to the ground before being run over by the bus' front right tires.
Paula Becker, Brown's mother, says the grief strikes her in unexpected ways, such as when a toddler on a plane sang "The Wheels on the Bus."
“All I can think of are the wheels on the bus running over my child, who was once my 3-year-old,” Becker said.
Becker said she hopes that she hopes the lawsuit can bolster the bus line's policies and procedures.
"We want to assure that people can ride Greyhound safely," Bekcer said.
A Greyhound spokesperson could not be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.
Brown's father, Barry Brown, said they bought the bus ticket to help their son battle addiction by meeting family in the San Francisco Bay Area. He said his son had "straightened himself out" once before.
"He was young and we had great hope that he would do that again," Brown said. "Now that chance is taken away."
After Brown's death, the family needed to spend several days in Southern Oregon making arrangements while working around a holiday weekend. Becker expressed gratitude for the kindness of local police and local businesses.
"We were treated so compassionately by the Central Point Police Department," Becker said, naming Det. Josh Abbott as someone who "went above and beyond."
The case was among the first to utilize a three-dimensional imaging device known as a FARO scanner, according to a previous report.
Becker said the family had been familiar with the Rogue Valley before, as Hunter Brown's younger sister had participated Oregon Shakespeare Festival activities when she was in high school.
"It's really terrible that's where Hunter met his end, because it was an area we're very fond of," Becker said.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.