PORTLAND – The parents of a girl who was sexually abused by a bus driver when she was 14 have filed suit against TriMet for negligence.
The $1.1 million civil lawsuit accused TriMet of failing to train employees how to prevent abuse. The suit also blames TriMet for failing to properly supervise driver Christopher Parker as he developed the relationship with the girl who regularly rode on his bus route.
Parker, 54, was convicted in 2011 for sex crimes against a minor in the case. He was sentenced to jail time and also had to register as a sex offender.
"We intend to prove that, in a larger policy sense, TriMet failed to do its job by training its supervisors and staff to recognize such a relationship while it was going on," explained Kelly Clark, the family's attorney. "TriMet badly failed to respond to plain warning signs of an abusive relationship."
The lawsuit contends that Parker would sometimes drive the TriMet bus off his regular route to be alone with the girl. Then, he would grope and kiss her and perform sexual acts, according to court documents. The abuse occurred on dozens of occasions and also expanded to sexual text messages and photos when the two were not together.
The lawsuit states that TriMet knew or should have known that Parker was engaging in a sexually inappropriate relationship with the girl and that supervisors reprimanded him for allowing the girl to stay on his bus during out-of-service times, yet the incidents continued.
Background: TriMet bus driver accused of sex abuse
Clark said Tuesday that the victim continues to struggle over the abuse, but she has been getting mental health counseling and support to help her move forward.
The girl's attorneys said the lawsuit is aimed at bringing justice to the victim and also forcing change that will make everyone safer.
"If organizations know that they don't have enough policies in place that they may be sued, and may have to pay money, then that's going to encourage them to get the right policies in place," Clark said.
When asked about the case, TriMet officials said they could not comment on pending lawsuits.