Norman Public Schools says not enough money to cover all bus crash victims’ bills

NORMAN, Okla. - A battle over medical bills is underway, months after two dozen Norman elementary school students were involved in a horrific bus crash in Texas.

The crash happened in September on the Cleveland Elementary 5th grade field trip to Sea World. While driving through Lampasas, Texas, the bus driver lost control, wrecked, and rolled multiple times.

There were 25 students and three faculty members on board at the time. According to Norman Public Schools, five students and two faculty members were hospitalized immediately. All 28 were potentially injured to some degree. Some had severe, and what will likely be long-lasting injuries. News 4 was told one student even needed brain surgery.

Now NPS told parents in a letter it's only insured for $1 million for the crash through the Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust, and each individual claim can only recover up to $125,000. According to the letter, because of the medical bills that parents have already handed in looking for reimbursement, and the potential for more, "NPS and OSRMT believe that the coverage limits of $1,000,000 will be exhausted," meaning there won't be enough to cover everyone's bills.

Because of that, NPS and OSRMT filed an interpleader suit in the Cleveland County Courthouse Tuesday, naming those involved in the crash as defendants. The move essentially freezes any insurance payouts, and leaves the decision of how to divide that $1 million up to the courts. NPS and OSRMT will give the entire $1 million to the court system, accepting full liability. According to the lawsuit, the court will appoint a "special master" to decide how much in damages should go to each claim until the money runs out.

After that, it will be up to families to come up with the cash to pay what's left.

Three requests for an interview with Norman Public Schools were ignored Monday afternoon, but a spokesperson sent the following statement:

"The district has coverage up to the maximum limits provided by Oklahoma law and that is $1,000,000 dollars in coverage but Oklahoma law limits the amount that can be paid to any one claimant to $125,000. Precisely because the district has liability and there will be multiple claims, the district’s insurer decided to use an interpleader process to pay the money into the court so that all claims can be received and apportioned up to the maximum of coverage."

News 4 spoke to attorney Garvin Isaacs, who says a situation like this won't resolve itself quickly.

"They need lawyers," Isaacs said. "This is one of those situations where they need lawyers."