FCSD sues bus company

WINNSBORO – It was supposed to be a lifetime opportunity for 47 Fairfield County BETA Club students.

Instead, recurring mechanical issues and frequent stops turned the road trip to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma into a nightmare.

Now the Fairfield County School District is suing, accusing the bus company of “contract breaches and misrepresentations,” and also claiming the company is responsible for nearly $10,500 in additional costs the district says it incurred.

Filed March 18, the suit names Brooks Cavaliers; Brooks Transit Charter Service, Inc.; John Brooks; Inga Brooks; Charles Brooks; and Charles Black as defendants.

The litigation seeks actual and punitive damages, damages in accordance with the S.C. Unfair Trade Practices Act, and legal fees and expenses. A deadline of October 14 has been set to complete mediation.

Brooks Cavaliers had not filed a response as of press time, according to the Fairfield County Public Index.

A representative of Brooks Cavaliers said the company has responded to the suit, but he did not comment further and the call ended.

Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green and board chairman William Frick also couldn’t be reached.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Claudia Avery signed the initial contract with Brooks Transit on March 29, 2019, according to documents filed with the suit.

At the April 9, 2019 board meeting, the district’s Board of Trustees approved the Oklahoma excursion as a field trip request at a cost of $45,024.60. The purpose of the trip was so students in grades 4-8 could travel to the National Beta Club Convention “to compete in various academic competitions and present their visual artwork and projects,” district financial documents state.

Invoices filed with the lawsuit state the district spent an additional $8,212 to charter with a second bus company to complete the trip after the original bus broke down, stranding students and chaperones.

The district spent $2,267.47 more in additional hotel room costs, driving the total cost of the trip to at least $55,504.07. Forty-seven students and 14 chaperones went on the trip.

According to the lawsuit, the Brooks Cavaliers buses stopped virtually every hour the first night of the trip, sometimes for drivers to take restroom breaks or to sleep; other times for various mechanical problems.

“The drivers did not offer any explanation for many of the unscheduled stops and, when asked, spoke in a very rude manner to the chaperones of the trip,” the suit states. “Many of the stops occurred on the side of the highway for a lengthy amount of time, creating risks of accidents.”

At one point, a bus leaked oil on the property of a hotel, which complained about the leak. Mechanical problems persisted in Oklahoma and on the return trip, including at a truck stop in Oklahoma, where students and chaperones were marooned for five hours, according to the suit.

“After a lengthy wait, one of the chaperones telephoned a school district administrator to report the ongoing concerns and the fact that they had been stranded at a truck stop in Oklahoma for several hours,” the suit stated. “District administration attempted to contact Brooks Cavaliers unsuccessfully to try to resolve this issue. The District administrator eventually reached Ms. Inga Brooks and explained the seriousness of the matter.”

It was at this point, the suit continues, that the district hired a second charter bus company to drive everyone home.