Mardi Gras parade victims file lawsuits two years later


Two years after the horrific accident that sent a dozen student marching band members to the hospital, four of the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade victims are seeking legal restitution.

In court documents recently obtained by The Baldwin Times, the plaintiffs name several defendants in their claims, including the City of Gulf Shores, American Legion Post 44, the Baldwin County Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and parade organizer Erica Bassett.

While plaintiffs are all under the age of 19 and are identified on the court documents by their initials, their parents are listed on the documents alongside them: Michael Diehl, Carol Clark, Victoria Eginton, James Tierney, Stacey D. Roberts and Linda Shay Roberts.

Each of the four suits claim the City of Gulf Shores had coordinated the Mardi Gras parade in previous years without serious incident before Bassett assumed the role of event coordinator. The suits also claim the original parade lineup positioned the marching band behind the American Legion and MOAA, which were to serve as the parade’s honor guard. According to the claims, the organizations were only slated to be driving a golf cart.

However, that was not the case. The band was moved in front of the honor guard, which was represented by Lawrence Rathbun who was driving a large SUV. As the parade was set to begin and turn right from the staging area onto HWY 59 South, Rathbun’s SUV drove into the marching band members in front of him.

The assertion of the lawsuits is that the defendants acted with severe negligence in selecting Rathbun as a representative for the parade, claiming they knew or should have known he had medical issues at the time which could impair his driving ability.

The documents also state that Bassett acted with negligence by allowing an SUV when the permit specifically called for a golf cart, failed to conduct a pre-parade meeting and failed to use reasonable safety measures in organizing and coordinating the parade.

Injuries sustained by the plaintiffs are described in the findings including a fractured spine, contusions, abrasions, lacerations, muscle tears, broken tibia, broken fibula, infections and more.

All suits demand a trial by jury, but each one asks for different damages. One request $100,000 in damages, another $425,000 and the remaining two ask for reasonable compensatory damages.

The City of Gulf Shores declined to comment on pending litigation.