Where the school secretary sued the employer of a school bus driver for reckless infliction of emotional distress after the driver caused a school bus accident killing six children, and the secretary alleged that the employer ignored multiple warnings regarding the driver’s unsafe practices, the Court of Appeals ruled that the claim against defendant employer should have been dismissed because “the secretary [was] not a person who falls within the reasonably foreseeable scope of the particular substantial and unjustifiable risk consciously disregarded by the employer and, therefore, [could not] recover under a reckless infliction of emotional distress claim.”
In Bibbs v. Durham School Services, L.P., No. E2020-00688-COA-R10-CV, 2022 WL 1042733 (Tenn. Ct App. April 7, 2022), plaintiff was the school secretary at an elementary school, and defendant was the employer of school bus drivers for that school. In November 2016, school bus driver Johntony Walker lost control of the bus he was driving and had an accident, killing six children and injuring many others. Plaintiff alleged that defendant had ignored numerous warnings about Walker’s dangerous driving practices, including over one thousand notifications from the monitoring software that Walker was speeding while driving the bus; Walker being at fault for two accidents in a 34-day period just a few months before this accident; knowledge that Walker would “slam on his brakes to make the children hit their heads;” video of Walker talking on the phone with a headset while driving; evidence that Walker had fallen asleep while driving twice; evidence that Walker would intentionally swerve the school bus; and evidence from just five days before the crash showing that Walker had twenty-five speeding incidents, including five times when he was exceeding the speed limit by at least twenty miles per hour.
Plaintiff asserted multiple claims in her complaint, but the only claim at issue on appeal was her claim for reckless infliction of emotional distress. Defendant had filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court denied, ruling that plaintiff had satisfied the elements of that claim. On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that dismissal should have been granted.