Seven Alice ISD students brought lawsuit against Garcia Holiday Tours

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

A Jim Wells County jury returned a verdict awarding $5.25 million to seven individuals Wednesday, finding they were infected with tuberculosis by the bus driver while on an Alice High School band trip.

The jury awarded $125,000 for physical pain and past mental anguish and $625,000 in future mental anguish for each of the seven plaintiffs in the case.

The lawsuit was filed in district court March 4, 2005. Plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit included Oscar Perez II, Danielle Calhoun, Adriana Riojas, Juan Gabriel Gonzalez, Marisol Salazar, Roel Guerra Jr. and Maria E. Guerra.

The lawsuit was filed against Garcia Holiday Tours, L.C. and Raul Garcia.

According to court documents, on April 30, 2004, the Alice Independent School District contracted with Garcia Holiday Tours, L.C. to transport members of the Alice High School Band on a field trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio.

The lawsuit alleged that, unknown to plaintiffs, the bus driver, Garcia, was actively infected with tuberculosis at the time of the trip.

The lawsuit also alleged negligence on the part of Garcia for failing to contain his tuberculosis, negligence on the part of Garcia Holiday Tours, L.C. for not screening Garcia, and malice against both defendants for not protecting the plaintiffs from the risk of exposure.

In a press release issued after the verdict, Jason P. Hoelscher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he hoped the verdict would serve as a lesson to the community.

"We hope that others will learn from this unfortunate tragedy and strictly follow the mandatory safety regulations that are designed to protect the motoring public," Hoelscher said.