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Civil Suit Filed in Death of Colorado Girl at School Bus Stop

The parents of an 11-year-old girl who was struck and killed by her school bus as she ran after it at her stop filed a lawsuit against the school district and bus driver for wrongful death.

The complaint was filed Thursday with the U.S. District Court for Colorado by the attorney for Brandon and Leandra Backner, the parents of Annaliese Backner, who tripped and fell before being run over by her school bus the morning of March 3. Garfield County School District #16 and Steven Lawrence Shaw, 74, who was driving the bus that ran over Annaliese, are named as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges that Shaw failed to see Annaliese running along the passenger side of the bus as the vehicle pulled away from the stop, despite interior bus video clearly showing the girl.

“…[D]efendant Shaw continues driving and never glances at his passenger-side mirror,” the document states.

The complaint also alleges that video and eyewitness statements confirm that student passengers were yelling at Shaw to alert him that Annaliese was running after the bus, but at that point Shaw did not react or check the passenger-side mirror.

Annaliese then lost her balance and fell to the street. The rear right tire rolled completely over the girl’s body, “thereby causing the child profound injuries and near instant death,” the lawsuit alleges.

The Backners’ attorney, Chad P. Hemmat, alleges that Shaw is negligent because he “failed to exercise the highest degree of care” and “at least slightly, if not greatly” failed to provide the “caution, care and diligence” required of a school bus driver.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims the school district is also liable as Shaw’s employer.

The Backners seek a jury verdict that awards compensation for “grief, loss of companionship, impairment of the quality of their life, inconveniences, pain and suffering, and emotional distress” as well as for funeral and burial expenses, and financial loss.

Garfield County School District Superintendent Jennifer Baugh declined a request to comment on this article.


Related: (STN Podcast E107) Bus Stop Safety Prioritized: Tragedy Leads to Anna’s Law in Colorado
Related: Colorado Senate Approves $5.5M to Improve School Bus Safety
Related: Colorado School Bus Driver Shortage Increases Amid In-Person Classes


The incident sparked an unsuccessful “Anna’s Law” that would have appropriated $5.5 million a year to improve school bus safety with such upgrades as a parent app that notifies on school bus arrival times as well as silent alarms and crash detectors to alert first responders about the exact location of buses in an emergency.

The bill died in the House Appropriations Committee on May 12 after passing the Senate less than two weeks earlier.

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