The family of the cyclist killed in January on San Jacinto Boulevard is suing the Capital Metro bus driver charged with the man’s death and her employers.
Cyclist Anthony John Diaz, 39, was dragged under a CapMetro bus and killed on Jan. 28 when bus driver Mindi Taylor Stafford, 40, “drove in a manner that was reckless and, in doing so, recklessly caused (his death),” according to Stafford’s arrest affidavit. Stafford was arrested and charged with manslaughter on March 12 by UT Police Department detectives.
Diaz’s family is suing Stafford, Travis Transit Management and transportation company RATP Dev. USA for over $1 million, according to the lawsuit. CapMetro is not listed as a defendant. Travis Transit Management and RAPT Dev. USA hired and trained Stafford as a bus driver.
The lawsuit cites information from Stafford’s arrest affidavit and a search warrant to explain her negligence in conduct during the incident. The lawsuit states Stafford had four prescription medications which listed dizziness and drowsiness as side effects in her backpack and in her system, causing her to be impaired while operating the bus. Stafford failed part of a drug sobriety test taken after the collision, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also states video inside and outside of the bus show the bus leaving its lane and drifting into parking spaces where Diaz was riding, and says Stafford appeared to be “oblivious to her surroundings (and) did not appear to react to her passengers’ warnings.” The bus’s on-board accelerometer shows Stafford did not apply the brakes until after she hit Diaz, coming to a stop 110 feet after the collision.
Stafford’s conduct is described in the lawsuit as going “beyond mere negligence and falls into the category of gross negligence” because of her recklessness in operating the bus.
Jeremy Levine, the Diaz family’s attorney, said Stafford’s conduct is gross negligence because it was preventable.
“(The defendants) created a dangerous situation that could have been prevented,” Levine said. “That’s the tragedy of this case. (Diaz) was riding his bike on the UT campus, by all indications, was where he was supposed to be, passengers on the bus saw, warned (Stafford) apparently that she was swerving and she hit him. She could have hit a UT student. She could have hit anybody. She unfortunately hit Tony Diaz.”
In Stafford’s arrest affidavit, she stated that at the time of the crash, she was trying to avoid hitting other cars in the road and did not see Diaz until it was too late. She also stated Diaz entered her lane and he should have been in the bicycle lane.
Video from the surrounding area shows no traffic and a well-lit road at the time of the incident. There are also no bicycle lanes along San Jacinto Boulevard. The video shows Diaz riding as close to the curb as possible with reflective gear on his bicycle and helmet, and he was visible from the bus’s front camera before the crash, according to the affidavit.
Stafford was charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony. Her court date is set for April 12.
Levine said the goal of the lawsuit is to help get justice for Diaz’s family and ensure this incident will not happen again.
“Bringing light to some of these policies and procedures is important for the safety of the UT community (and) for the safety of the community at large,” Levine said.