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Motorists pass a collection of teddy bears, mementos, and balloons placed at the site of a fatal school bus crash on Talley Road on Nov. 24 in Chattanooga.

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Second family files negligence lawsuit in connection with Woodmore crash

An area woman says her granddaughter suffered disfiguring injuries, psychological damage and considerable medical and economic expenses as a result of the deadly Woodmore Elementary School bus crash in November.

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Pamela Johnson filed the 14th lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court last week against driver Johnthony Walker, his employer, Durham School Services, and the Hamilton County Department of Education, which partnered with the Illinois-headquartered bus company to provide the majority of the area's student transportation.

Johnson's granddaughter and dozens of other children were injured as a result of Walker's "callous attitude toward the students and his unsafe driving," the lawsuit says. Police say the 24-year-old was speeding on Talley Road in Brainerd on Nov. 21, 2016, when he lost control of the bus and crashed, killing six students.

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The lawsuit lists the education department and Durham because neither entity removed or disciplined Walker after receiving complaints from parents and students about his unsafe driving.

The school board recently re-signed its contract with Durham, agreeing to another year because the company has made significant safety improvements, including monitors on buses and a new electronic database complaint system.

That doesn't stop the minor's anguish, the lawsuit says.

"[She] has incurred and will incur considerable medical and other expenses as a result of this crash as well as diminished earning capacity," the suit says.

In March, Circuit Court Judge J.B. Bennett ruled that plaintiffs' attorneys cannot receive any evidence that law enforcement collected from the bus crash scene to protect Walker's constitutional rights while he faces criminal prosecution.

Walker is charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, four counts of reckless aggravated assault, and one count each of reckless endangerment, reckless driving and use of a portable electronic device by a school bus driver. He is scheduled to appear May 15 before Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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