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HART, trucking company face off over public records for evidence in 2015 crash

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A 2015 accident between a tractor-trailer and a Hillsborough County bus has set off a legal dispute over the right to access public records.

As part of the disagreement, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Agency is claiming footage shot inside the bus during the crash, necessary to help exonerate the owner of the tractor-trailer, is confidential and cannot be released.

ArcBest is an Arkansas-based publicly traded transportation logistics company, with revenues of $2.7-billion in fiscal year 2016.

On Sept. 2, 2015, a tractor-trailer owned by ArcBest was involved in an accident with a HART bus near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and N. 40th Street in Tampa.

Two claims arose from the accident, faulting ArcBest.

As part of its defense, the company asked HART to provide several pieces of evidence – including video footage shot inside the bus. In response, HART had produced “minimal” records January 30, 2017, with other documents issued March 16. However, no video evidence was provided.

In a suit filed March 21 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, ArcBest alleges HART admitted such video exists, but rejected ArcBest’s request three times, saying the footage is confidential and exempt from Florida’s Sunshine Laws pertaining to public records.

According to the suit: “The video footage from the inside of the bus on the date of the accident is critical to determine the facts related to the alleged injuries sustained by the claimants against Plaintiff and represent the only and best evidence of how such alleged injuries were sustained.”

Court records obtained from HART by include detailed descriptions of the accident, names of both drivers and those of several passengers claiming injury and/or sought compensation, as well as photos of the bus’s exterior damage, correspondence between attorneys and ArcBest, and other info.

In addition, records suggest police blamed the accident on the tractor-trailer driver.

Nevertheless, ArcBest is asking for the court to force HART to release the video, saying it “could prevent unnecessary litigation and the costs associated with same for both Plaintiff and the two claimants.”

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