Parents of Newark cheerleader injured in hit-and-run file $150 million lawsuit against district, bus company

Chiara Jones was critically injured in a hit-and-run crash outside Newark Arts High School in February.

Chris Keating

Mar 26, 2024, 11:54 AM

Updated 20 days ago

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The parents of a Newark high school cheerleader injured in a hit-and-run crash have announced that they are planning to file a $150 million lawsuit against the Newark School District and Best Choice Transportation.
Chiara Jones is an 18-year-old Arts High School student who is still fighting for her life after she was run down by a car while exiting a school bus in February.
The teenager’s mother, Tomeika Jones, says she misses talking with her daughter, who suffered a traumatic brain injury outside of Arts High School in Newark. Chiara is now being cared for at Kessler Rehabilitation in West Orange.
Tomeika Jones says Chiara is still not verbal but is able to move her limbs and open her eyes.
“We’re mourning the loss of a person that used to be. It’s been a challenge,” says Tomeika Jones. “I just never imagined this…we are heartbroken…I am with Chiara 24-7 since she’s been at Kessler. I have moved in with her to be by her side day and night.”
On the night of the crash, Chiara was on board a school bus, returning from a cheerleading competition in Toms River. The bus double parked on a two-way street in front of Arts High and Chiara was the first person off.
She would cross in front of the bus and be hit by a car that crossed the double yellow lines to pass the bus from behind.
But the family attorney says the bus driver was also at fault.
“Before Chiara exits the school bus, the driver failed to engage the flashing red lights and the stop sign arm that comes out to alert drivers students are exiting and drivers should stop,” says attorney James Lynch.
Lynch could not release video from inside of the bus on the night of the incident. But News 12 New Jersey was allowed to view it.
One could hear the impact of Chiara being hit by the car and then see the bus driver hit the button to put out his stop sign and flashing lights. The driver does so, only after impact.
Lynch says the district is also at fault because the team chaperones and coaches didn’t get off the bus before the students.
Mia Jah Burton, 33, was eventually arrested and faces serious criminal charges. Burton, and the bus driver are also named in the lawsuit.
Tomieka and Stanley Jones say their daughter will need intense possibly lifelong medical care.
“We want Chiara to be able to be cared for like she deserves. She did not deserve to be left for dead,” Tomieka Jones says.
Her parents say Chiara was excited to start college at Clark-Atlanta University.
Her father says they work with Chiara every day to make small strides to recover. He says that while talking with his daughter on Monday, he asked her to raise her arm if she wanted to listen to music.
“So she started trembling her hand and trying to move it. She opened her eyes real wide and she lifted her hand up and laid it back down,” says Stanley Jones
News 12 reached out to the bus company, Best Choice Transportation, but has not been given a response to the lawsuit.
The Newark School District does not comment on pending litigation.


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