Francisco v. Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
On May 6, 2014, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Brian Panish and Spencer Lucas obtained a $15,313,703 jury verdict for a woman and her daughter after the woman suffered a broken back while riding on an Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (“AC Transit”) bus being driven recklessly by an AC Transit employee. This is the largest known jury verdict against AC Transit.
On August 27, 2011, Maria Francisco, her daughter, Mia, and other family members were riding an AC Transit bus to a shopping mall to purchase gifts for a birthday celebration. The bus went over a speed hump in a school zone at more than twice the legal speed limit. When the bus hit the hump, Ms. Francisco was thrown up into the air and landed with such extreme force that it caused a severe traumatic burst fracture to her L1 vertebra. Despite Ms. Francisco’s obvious distress, the bus driver began verbally attacking Ms. Francisco, including accusing her of lying about her injury and threatening her with prosecution. Mia witnessed the entire incident and the bus driver’s subsequent threats. The entire incident, including the bus driver’s conduct, was captured on videotape by AC Transit cameras. As a result of her injury, Ms. Francisco has had three spine surgeries, including a spinal fusion.
AC Transit waited until two days before trial to admit liability for Ms. Francisco’s injury. At trial, AC Transit disputed the necessity of the surgeries Ms. Francisco underwent, including the emergency spine surgery recommended and performed by John Muir Medical Center physicians just days after the incident. AC Transit also challenged every other aspect of Ms. Francisco’s damages including her future medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering, suggesting that Ms. Francisco was lying and exaggerating the nature of her injury. The jury disagreed, awarding 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. Ms. Francisco’s daughter was awarded $1,000,000 for past and future emotional distress relating to her witnessing the incident. Defendants’ pre-trial settlement offer was $2,750,000.
On July 29, 2014, the trial court denied the Defendants’ Motion for New Trial.