$7,100,000 Bus Accident – Bus Runs Over Pedestrian
Injuries: Right leg amputation above-the-knee, severe phantom limb pain.
Amount of Judgment: $7,100,000
Special Damages: Medical expenses: approximately $180,000.00; lost earning capacity: approximately $40,000.00
Plaintiff’s Attorney: Marc L. Breakstone Boston
Date of Verdict: December 4, 2008
Other Useful Information
On September 13, 2005, plaintiff, aged 58, was crossing Washington Street in the South End in a crosswalk when she was struck by the left front corner of an MBTA bus. At the point of impact, plaintiff was approximately 28-feet across the four-lane street. She was crossing with a crossing signal. The MBTA bus came up from behind and to her right. The bus had a green light and was turning left across the crosswalk.
The left front corner of the bus struck plaintiff in the right rear and knocked her to the ground. The left front tire ran over plaintiff’s right upper thigh. Plaintiff was rushed to a local emergency department where her right lower extremity was amputated approximately eight inches below the hip.
Liability was disputed by defendant MBTA. Defendant claimed the plaintiff negligently failed to see or hear the bus before it struck her. At trial, defendant argued that other pedestrians had seen and/or heard the bus and retreated to the sidewalk, but that plaintiff continued in the crosswalk and walked into the side of the bus.
The only independent witness who testified at trial stated that upon hearing the impact of the bus on the pedestrian, the witness observed the driver looking to his right and speaking to a passenger as the bus as turning left. The bus driver testified at trial that he continually scanned the roadway, looking left, forward and right, but never saw plaintiff until after the impact. It was undisputed that plaintiff had been in the crosswalk for approximately nine seconds at the time she was hit. It was further undisputed that she was approximately halfway across Washington Street at that time.
The incident was investigated by the MBTA Transit Police. The driver was cited by the MBTA Transit Police for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
At trial, the driver admitted the accident was his fault. The MBTA liability expert admitted the accident was the driver’s fault. The MBTA Transit Police officer admitted that the accident was a result of the defendant driver’s failure to yield to plaintiff in the crosswalk, and the MBTA bus operations spokesperson admitted that the driver failed to adhere to MBTA bus training guidelines in the manner in which he executed the left-hand turn. Notwithstanding these admissions, the MBTA maintained throughout trial that the accident was the fault of plaintiff.
Following a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for two days and returned a verdict for plaintiff. The jury found the MBTA 100% at fault.
Defendant MBTA disputed the extent of plaintiff’s damages. Expert witnesses were presented on both sides with regard to the future life care needs of plaintiff. It was undisputed that plaintiff had twice been fitted for prosthetic limbs, but was unable to utilize the prosthetic limbs because of her severe phantom limb pain and stump pain. As a result, plaintiff will be restricted to a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. She will require personal care attendant assistance with all activities of daily living.
The MBTA filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied. The MBTA then appealed the case. The Appeals Court affirmed the judgment, and the MBTA sought further appellate review from the Supreme Judicial Court. That petition was also denied, resulting in a complete affirmation of the judgment.
The MBTA, in its appeals, sought to overturn the verdict, and to avoid pre-trial and post-trial interest. The MBTA argued that amendments to the state’s sovereign immunity law were retroactive, but the Appeals Court rejected that argument.