Woman injured on Oakland public transit bus awarded $15 million verdict

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by Michael Heygood

In 2011, Maria Francisco, her daughter Mia, and other members of her family were taking a bus to the mall to purchase gifts for a birthday celebration. The bus was operated by the Oakland-area Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (“AC Transit”). When the bus went over a speed bump in a school zone at more than twice the legal speed limit, Ms. Francisco was thrown into the air. When she landed, the force caused a severe burst fracture to her L1 vertebra. She cried out in pain and her family asked the driver for help getting an ambulance. Instead, the bus driver verbally attacked Francisco, accusing her of lying about her injury and threatening her with prosecution. The entire incident, including the bus driver’s conduct, was captured on videotape by AC Transit cameras.

According to testimony at trial, Ms. Francisco has since had three spine surgeries, including a spinal fusion. She has been in chronic pain and severely limited in her daily activities, including being unable to work.

Two days before trial, AC Transit accepted responsibility for the incident but continued to challenge the extent of Ms. Francisco’s injuries and damages. At trial, AC Transit disputed the necessity of Ms. Francisco’s surgeries, including an emergency spine surgery recommended and performed by John Muir Medical Center physicians just days after the incident.

The jury awarded Ms. Francisco a total of $10,000,000 in past and future pain and suffering, $3,385,965 in past and future medical expenses, $800,266 for future loss of earnings and $127,472 for past family services. In addition, Ms. Francisco’s daughter Mia was awarded $1,000,000 for past and future emotional distress relating to her witnessing the incident.

Feds Shuts Down Two Bus Companies in Massachusetts

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced last month that it has revoked the operating authority of two Massachusetts-based bus companies. The two passenger carriers ordered shut-down by FMCSA are Crystal Transport, Inc. of Boston and Pandora Travel, Inc. of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

In February 2014, FMCSA investigators conducted a review of Crystal Transport and discovered continuing serious violations and non-compliance with previously identified federal safety regulations. Examples of violations cited by FMCSA investigators included evidence that three drivers, all of whom had tested positive for controlled substances, had been allowed to transport passengers for most of 2013. In addition, falsified records-of-duty were discovered as was evidence of drivers being required or permitted to drive far in excess of hours-of-service restrictions.

In February 2014, FMCSA investigators reviewed Pandora Travel and discovered continuing serious violations and non-compliance with previously identified federal safety regulations. FMCSA investigators found numerous speeding and traffic violations incurred by Pandora’s drivers over a period of years and throughout 2013. Investigators found numerous instances of drivers’ exceeding the posted speed limit. The company took no disciplinary action in some instances and allowed the individuals to continue to transport passengers. The company responded but failed to demonstrate compliance with federal safety regulations.

Need help following a bus crash or trucking accident?

To successfully bring a claim involving personal injury or death resulting from a bus or trucking accident, clients need an experienced, educated attorney on their side. They also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried hundreds of cases to verdict and have settled hundreds more. In 2010 alone, we negotiated settlements of wrongful death and personal injury claims totaling more than $50 million.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson also has the financial resources to handle bus and truck crash cases from start to finish. In fact, there are many instances in which we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case in order to take it to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson partner Eric D. Pearson represented the family of Nick Stout, a teenage boy who suffered a traumatic brain injury when the bus he was taking to church camp slammed into a concrete bridge abutment in East Texas, killing four and injuring dozens. Evidence showed that the driver of the bus, Ernest Carter, was under the influence of cocaine and Valium at the time of the crash. He was also suffering from fatigue due to his failure to adhere to government regulations relating to maximum hours and minimum rest periods.

Following a three week trial, the jury in the 14th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded the Stout family more than $36 million. Other attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have negotiated a $15 million settlement of a case involving an 18-wheeler accident that killed several members of the same family. And they achieved verdicts or settlements of $7.25 million, $5.2 million, $5 million, and $1.8 million in other 18-wheeler cases, just to name a few.

Contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free legal consultation form.