An Alameda Superior Court jury in Oakland, California has awarded
$15,313,703 to 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.
The plaintiffs were represented at trial by Brian Panish, Spencer Lucas
and Patrick Gunning of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP. Plaintiffs were also
represented in the case by Ivan Golde of the Law Offices of Ivan Golde.
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. She immediately cried out in pain, and her family called for
an ambulance. 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, and has been in chronic pain and severely
limited in her daily activities, including being unable to work, since
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.
"Through no fault of her own, Ms. Francisco suffered an extremely
painful injury that will continue to impact her for the rest of her
life. Rather than accepting responsibility for its negligence, AC
Transit instead chose to challenge Ms. Francisco's credibility. That
tactic didn't work, and the jury did the right thing with this verdict,"
said attorney Brian Panish. Added attorney Spencer Lucas, "This verdict
will ensure that Ms. Francisco is able to get the long term treatment
that she needs and will be able to take care of herself and her
daughter. That is what this case was about."
The Defendants were represented at trial by Dana Fox and Shawn Toliver
of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP.
In 2011, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP obtained a $10,500,000 settlement
against AC Transit in another bus accident case, Nichols v. AC Transit.
In 2005, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP obtained a $27,394,567 verdict against
the City and County of San Francisco in a wrongful death case involving
a four-year old girl killed by a city truck (Dominguez v. City and
County of San Francisco). This is the largest personal injury
verdict ever against the City and County of San Francisco.
Maria Francisco and Mia Cisneros v. Alameda-Contra Costa
Transit District and Dollie Gilmore
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