Panish Shea & Boyle attorneys Brian Panish, Spencer Lucas and Patrick Gunning obtained a $15,313,703 verdict for a woman and her young daughter after the woman suffered a burst fracture of her vertebra after the bus she was riding on went over a speed bump at twice the speed limit. The trial was held in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, California.
On August 27, 2011, Maria Francisco and her daughter were passengers on an Alameda Contra-Costa County Transit District (“AC Transit”) bus heading to a mall in San Pablo, California to go shopping while on their way to a family birthday party. Ms. Francisco was seated on the rear bench seat which is made of hard plastic.
While in a clearly marked school zone with a 15 miles per hour posted speed limit, bus driver Dollie Gilmore drove the AC Transit bus over a speed bump in excess of 30 miles per hour. Ms. Francisco was projected up into the air approximately three feet before coming down to a hard landing on her tailbone causing a severe L1 burst fracture with retropulsion into the spinal canal.
Rather than immediately aiding to Ms. Francisco, the bus driver instead implies that she is lying about her injury, stating that she “hates to have to call an ambulance because they are going to get her for fraud too.” The entire incident on the bus is recorded by AC Transit cameras and was played to the jury at trial.
At trial, attorneys for the Defendants suggested the Ms. Francisco was exaggerating the nature of her injuries and her need for future medical treatment. The jury disagreed, awarding Ms. Francisco $14,313,703 (including $10,000,000 for past and future pain and suffering) and $1,000,000 to Ms. Francisco’s daughter for emotional distress. Defendants’ settlement offer prior to trial was $2,750,000. This is believed to be the largest jury verdict ever against AC Transit.
AC Transit and Dollie Gilmore were represented at trial by Dana Fox and Shawn Toliver of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP. Plaintiffs were also represented in the case by Ivan Golde of the Law Offices of Ivan Golde.