Eleven years after wreck, man still waiting for judgement payout from EBR schools
BATON ROUGE - It's been about 11 years since Octavius Fitzpatrick was involved in a bus accident in East Baton Rouge. Now at 27, he's working in Dallas, but his injuries from that crash still affects him today.
"It's really been that long and I'm still really dealing with this," Fitzpatrick said.
At 17, he was on his way home from school when the bus he was riding in collided with the one in front of it. Fitzpatrick estimates the bus was going fast, about 40 miles per hour.
"There really wasn't much time for me to brace for impact because I wasn't expecting an impact," he said.
The impact injured his neck, back, and mouth. With his medical bills in the thousands, a lawsuit was filed against the East Baton Rouge Parish School system. A judgement was signed in 2016, but Fitzpatrick is still waiting for his compensation.
The judgement is for $57,000. With interest it's now grown to more than $83,000. Fitzpatrick offered to settle with the district for $40,000, which is an amount that won't even cover his medical costs. So far, the school board isn't working with him, offering $25,000 instead.
Fitzpatrick is represented by Byron Hutchinson of Spencer Callahan Law Firm. Hutchinson says this is the oldest judgement he has that's gone unpaid.
"This is running up on a seven years next month and $1 has not been sent to Octavius," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson fears that the East Baton Rouge School system isn't going to honor the judgement and knows there are others out there in his client's position.
"It's obvious that they don't pay judgements," he says.
It's a fear that goes deeper.
"If you're driving on the road and you're injured by an East Baton Rouge owned school bus, you will most likely not be compensated for the full amount of your damages, if you're compensated at all."
Fitzpatrick is an example of that, nearly 11 years after the accident happened. While he continues to wait, his medical bills have gone unpaid with the promise that any funds paid from the judgement would go toward paying them. He doesn't want to pass along those bills to loved ones.
Last week, the Investigative Unit shared a story about a woman waiting for her own judgement involving the EBR school system. She's been waiting since 2021.
EBR schools says it doesn't comment on the status of negotiations regarding judgements that are still pending. The school board's general counsel provided the following statement.
“Generally, cities, police juries and school boards are sometimes cast in judgment for monetary damages. When such rulings are issued and become final, these public bodies are not relieved of their primary duty to provide city services, roads, or education. The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board works to resolve all legal issues in a fiscally responsible manner that balances the public interest and the priority of funding education for students. As to any specific case, the Board cannot comment on legal matters.”
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