Tinsel and Tutus @ Reynolds Performance Hall — 12/12/13
12/12 — The Conway Symphony Orchestra entertained with Christmas music, including highlights from The Nutcracker performed by the Arkansas Festival Ballet.
Woodmore Elementary school bus crash
- Community holds vigil to honor victims of fatal Woodmore school bus crash [photos]
- One year later: Have school buses gotten safer since the Woodmore crash?
- The legislation: Advocates hope to pass school bus seat belt bill in 2018
- The neighbors: Talley Road residents recount details of deadly crash
- Cooper: Woodmore bus crash offered lessons, realities
- A year of grief: Mother recalls tragic day she lost her daughter
- The first responders: Paramedics, police officers recall scene of crash [photos]
- Lawsuit: Woodmore employees say bus company responsible for emotional trauma
- Two more lawsuits point to negligence in deadly Woodmore bus crash
- Three more civil claims filed in Woodmore crash case
- Bus coalition says Durham drivers want to share safety concerns
- American Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee honors local heroes
- Hamilton County 911 receives award for response to Woodmore crash
- School bus driver in deadly Woodmore crash released from jail after making bond
- Trial date set for driver in fatal Woodmore Elementary School bus crash
- Lawsuit: Mother of child who died in Woodmore bus crash was tricked into legal agreement
- Bus driver in deadly Woodmore crash placed on supervised release
- State attorneys receive new information in Woodmore solicitation case
- Chattanooga firefighters recognized with 'Governor's Certificate' for Woodmore response
- Judge denies alternative sentence request for bus driver in deadly Woodmore crash
- Attorney: Second vehicle involved in deadly Woodmore bus crash
- Court date delayed for bus driver charged in Woodmore case
- Victim's mom posts court documents on Facebook, complicating trial in deadly Woodmore bus crash
- Woodmore bus driver faces additional charges after prosecutors pledge to bring more counts
- Prosecutors plan to bring more charges against Woodmore bus driver
- Attorney says Woodmore bus driver should get alternative sentence
- Texas firm denies any solicitation of Woodmore victims
- Woodmore families protest after school board renews bus company contract [photos]
- Out-of-town jurors will decide Johnthony Walker's fate in Woodmore bus crash trial
- Tennessee AG files lawsuit against Texas firm accused of deceiving Woodmore families
- Child Services confirms agency has been investigating Woodmore bus driver
- Woodmore: Johnthony Walker's attorney wants out-of-town jury
- Judge rules Woodmore attorneys can ask for pre-accident info from bus company
- Twelfth civil lawsuit filed in Woodmore bus crash
- New Woodmore lawsuit takes aim at predatory law firms
- New lawsuit accuses law firms of preying on Woodmore victims
- Two more lawsuits filed in connection to fatal Woodmore bus crash
- Law enforcement to follow, randomly ride in Hamilton County school buses in wake of fatal crash
- NTSB report recounts events leading up to fatal Woodmore school bus crash
- Woodmore Fund completes distribution of more than $500,000 in gifts from community to families
- Woodmore responders recount crash nightmare
- Woodmore bus crash: Can county turn back clock on bus privatization?
- Despite Woodmore crash, Hamilton County likely will extend contract with same bus company
- Tennessee's attorney general vows to take on any law firms that exploit the Woodmore crash victims
- Driver in fatal Woodmore school bus crash had previous accidents, infractions in personnel file
- Lawsuit filed against Hamilton County Schools in connection with fatal Woodmore bus crash
- Industry experts warn of predatory law firms in wake of Woodmore bus tragedy
- Woodmore Fund releases video appeal for relief funds ahead of holidays
- Last 2 Woodmore patients released from Erlanger to rehab facility [video]
- Sixth Woodmore bus crash lawsuit targets bus manufacturer]
- Two Woodmore bus crash victims still in Erlanger Children's Hospital
- Woodmore Fund begins to help families affected by fatal bus crash in Chattanooga
- Fourth and fifth lawsuits filed in Woodmore bus crash
- Remaining hospitalized children in Woodmore bus accident in fair condition
- Third lawsuit says bus crash causes child to suffer disfigurement, brain injury
- Durham claims it wasn't aware of all complaints against driver in deadly bus crash [photos]
- Chattanooga school bus driver refuses to speak with investigators in fatal crash probe
- School bus company addresses driver complaints prior to fatal bus crash, promises change [video]
- Second family files negligence lawsuit in connection with deadly bus crash
- Hearing for bus driver in Woodmore crash delayed
- School bus strikes pedestrian in Brainerd one week after deadly Woodmore crash
- Three Woodmore students still in critical condition; 5 total remain hospitalized
- No kids were on school bus that hit pedestrian on Brainerd Road
- Man allegedly using Woodmore victims to scam people for money
- Zyaira Mateen, 6: The girl who loved to read and dance
- D'myunn Brown: Six-year-old remembered as smart, funny
- Zyanna Harris, 10: Girl had energy and spunk
- Cor'Dayja Jones, 9: Fourth-grader was sweet and shy
- Keonte Wilson, 8: Rambunctious boy was youngest of four
- Zoie Nash, 9: She was cheerful and laid-back
- In the wake of the fatal bus crash, Chattanooga stands strong
- Cook: The Hallelujahs of Woodmore Strong
- Tennessee law caps damages for Woodmore victims, families
- Bus driver in fatal crash told school employee 'he did not care about the students,' school records show
- Family of bus crash survivor finds much to be grateful for
- Community gives $112,000 to families of children killed in bus crash
- Parents say they warned district employees before crash that bus driver drove too fast and was reckless
- Life-saving stability control mandatory in new cars but not required for school buses [video]
- A sixth child in Woodmore bus crash has died
- NTSB says Talley Road not on designated route for bus in fatal crash
- First lawsuit filed in connection with Monday's fatal bus crash
- Local agencies launch fund for families of school bus crash victims
- Brainerd crash: New details emerge on history of driver, bus company
- Families mourn Woodmore Elementary students killed in school bus crash
- Tragedy leaves many area first responders emotionally scarred
- Local lawmakers favor push for mandatory seat belts on school buses
- Community gathers at prayer vigil for victims of fatal school bus accident
- Neighbors recount moments following Monday's fatal crash, say driver had reputation for speeding
- Johnthony Walker crashed bus months before fatal accident
- A nation reacts to Monday's school bus crash tragedy
- McCormick to push bill requiring all Tennessee school buses have seat belts
- Haslam says 'time to have that conversation' about school bus safety
- Neighbors of the bus driver charged with vehicular homicide said he was 'just an ordinary guy'
- School bus service provider had 346 crashes in last two years, records show'
- Families identify all five children killed in bus crash
- Community rallies to support Woodmore families
- Blood Assurance needs O-negative blood donations
- School bus driver in fatal accident graduated from Brainerd
- 6 students in ICU after school bus driver charged in crash that killed Woodmore Elementary students
- Erlanger doctors say kids dazed, couldn't spell names on arrival
- Officials report multiple fatalities in school bus crash on Talley Road
Carl Lewis had a lot on his mind in November 2016.
His daughter was being treated at Erlanger hospital after her school bus swerved into a tree on Talley Road with 37 Woodmore Elementary students onboard. His daughter's mother, Shanquatta Byrd, was talking to local attorneys about legal action against the bus company. He was in jail on a federal warrant for unlawfully possessing a firearm. And there, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Hamilton County Circuit Court, an investigator named "Paul Coffman" was visiting his cell with a sales pitch.
Coffman told Lewis he worked for an attorney in Savannah, Ga., the suit says. He claimed Lewis was "entitled to money, too," since he was the child's father. And, he said, if Lewis signed on with the law firm, they would bond him out of jail and find an attorney to fight the 27-year-old's federal case.
His current attorney, Robin Flores, said Lewis was expecting to be included in a lawsuit Byrd was going to file against the bus company with a local firm. But before that happened, Byrd shifted gears and signed on with Fried, Rogers, Goldberg LLC, an Atlanta firm that specializes in personal injury claims. Those attorneys filed a lawsuit on Byrd's behalf on Dec. 6, 2016, records show, that did not name Lewis as a plaintiff.
His lawsuit, which asks for $30 million in damages, does not actually list investigator Coffman. It drives at a larger concern that Byrd signed on with a firm that may not be acting in the best interests of the girl and her mother, Flores said.
The Times Free Press previously reported in December that out-of-town law firms flocked to Woodmore victims after the Nov. 21 crash, hoping to capitalize on people's civil cases. Some of those firms contacted grieving families directly, talked them into legal agreements that would funnel more money to the attorney, or sent an agent into funeral homes to persuade them to sign up on the spot, according to interviews and records. The behavior runs afoul of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, which state that attorneys must wait 30 days before they can contact people about litigation following a serious accident, or face possible disbarment. It also prompted the Tennessee Attorney General's Office to release a statement vowing to use its "full authority" to prosecute attorneys who broke the rules.
Fried, Rogers, Goldberg LLC released a statement Friday saying nobody associated with the firm ever visited Lewis in prison or elsewhere. "No one by the name of Coffman or Kaufman is employed by or associated in any way with our firm," attorney Joe Fried wrote. "We have no idea who that individual is or where he works."
Fried said motor-vehicle catastrophes are his legal speciality and that other attorneys often bring him onto such cases. He is licensed to practice in Tennessee, he said, and added his firm asked Byrd whether she had an attorney before executing a contract with her.
"My understanding of what transpired is, she was asked and she did not feel she was represented by anybody," he said. The local attorney - C. Mark Warren - contends Fried's firm lured Byrd away with promises of a larger settlement. But in the process she signed a contract that would award the firm nearly half her winnings, as opposed to the 25 percent Warren had offered.
The Lewis suit lists as defendants 24-year-old bus driver Johnthony Walker, the Hamilton County Department of Education, National Express, Ben Coulter and Durham School Services, the corporation that provides the majority of buses here. Coulter is a liaison for the department, and National Express owns Durham.
There have been about a dozen lawsuits filed in connection with the crash in state court. They largely argue that Durham was negligent in employing Walker, and that county officials were negligent for not acting on the complaints they received about his driving. In Chattanooga's U.S. District Court, attorneys are seeking class action status on the one suit there.
The Tennessee Attorney General's Office is looking into the allegations of solicitation here in Chattanooga, and possibly building a case against one Dallas, Texas, firm, sources said. Typically, that office cannot confirm whether there is an active investigation, spokeswoman Harlow Summerford said.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, Misti Nash claimed a man named Alphonso McClendon passed himself off as an attorney with the Witherspoon Law Group and promised the family $3 million in damages while they were shopping for funeral caskets. Her daughter, Zoie Nash, died in the crash.
The attorney general's office is investigating that incident, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said. Meanwhile, Memphis attorney Jimmy Blount said the same office recently sent him an official affidavit for his client to sign about her encounter with Witherspoon. That document would be a necessary piece of evidence to establish probable cause for whatever charges authorities may go with.
"It's my understanding they're going to go ahead and pursue criminal charges against Witherspoon," Blount said. "Whether they will or not, I don't know."
Blount and Levitt said funeral homes directed their clients to Witherspoon, a Dallas, Texas, firm that specializes in personal injury cases. In his case, Blount said Witherspoon locked his client into an unfair agreement with an illegitimate purchasing company in Tennessee.
The firm, which has denied the allegations, is fighting to dismiss that case in Shelby County's Chancery Court.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.