Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Scott Taylor ruled in favor of a Beasley Allen client and other members of the Gulf Shores High School Marching Band and their families who are represented by other counsel in the Baldwin County area, by rejecting defendant Bridgette Reynolds’ motion for summary judgment in an attempt to dismiss the case. The band members and their families filed a lawsuit over injuries they suffered while participating in the 2017 Mardi Gras parade due in part to Reynolds’ negligence.
“An event that was supposed to be fun came to a quick and disastrous end because of Ms. Reynolds’ obvious disregard for the band members and others’ safety,” said Beasley Allen attorney Mike Crow. “We are pleased that our client and other band members can continue seeking justice and accountability through the justice system.”
In February 2017, the band students performed in the city’s Mardi Gras parade. Shortly before the parade began, city employees negligently permitted an unauthorized participant vehicle to join the parade as a “pickup” vehicle for members of the Gulf Shores chapter of the American Legion. The vehicle, a Ford Expedition, was driven by Larry Rathbun, 73. The vehicle was placed in the lineup behind the band. Soon after the parade lineup began to move, Rathbun was told to “close the gap.” He admitted to law enforcement that he accelerated too much, confused the gas pedal and brake and failed to stop before running over and severely injuring 12 band students between the ages of 12 and 17.
Reynolds and another City of Gulf Shores employee, Erica Bassett, were tasked with organizing and overseeing the event. They developed the parade’s rules and guidelines to keep all participants and spectators safe. Participants were required to register and meet several requirements for entry approval, including providing a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and attending a pre-parade meeting. Rathbun had not met any of these requirements. Bassett was the only city employee allowed to authorize non-registered parade participants.
When several members of the American Legion Post 44 and Baldwin Chapter of Military Officers Association of America approached a volunteer assisting with the parade lineup, the volunteer called Reynolds. Although Reynolds knew she was not allowed to authorize non-registered participants, she instructed the volunteer to allow the unauthorized vehicle entry to the parade.
As a result of not following the safety protocols, officials did not learn that Rathbun had post-traumatic stress disorder and was under the care of a doctor who had prescribed Rathbun medicine that was contraindicated for operating a motor vehicle. Reynolds violated the rules she helped create, exposing the band students to unnecessary safety risks and injury.
“National media reported this event as a tragic accident, and it was, but it could and should have been easily prevented. Yet, Ms. Reynolds and others failed to follow the safety protocols created for this event,” Beasley Allen attorney Crow said.
The case is John Bryce Warner, et al., v. American Legion Post 44, Gulf Shores, Alabama, et al., case number 05-CV-2018-901261.00.