In 2003, Claude Williams suffered permanent brain damage after being struck by a NYC Transit Authority bus. In 2009, after the long awaited trial of his case, a jury awarded plaintiff Williams $1.8 million dollars finding the defendants 100% liable.
In 2011, after defendants' long awaited appeal, the court ordered a re-trial on liability, refusing to accept the jury's finding of 100% liability against defendants. After a second trial as to liability, the jury again found in favor of plaintiif but this time held defendants only 40% liable. Once again, the defendants appealed.
In yesterday's decision, the court for a second time vacated the jury's verdict and ordered a third trial as to liability. The court apparently was not satisfied with the inclusion of testimony from one of defendant's witnesses. The Transit Authority's investigator handling the case, essentially testified that Transit Authority policy was to keep a significant distance between the bus and the curb while approaching a stop. The court reasoned that the Transit Authority policy as testified to, created a higher duty upon defendants than that imposed by common law. Accordingly, the court ruled that said testimony was inadmissible and vacated the verdict in favor of plaintiff.
Plaintiff Williams, who is now in his 70's and still trying to manage with permanent brain damage, is now faced with the daunting task of enduring a third trial in order to try to receive compensation in his case. In the first trial, plaintiff argued that the bus driver passed a red light thereby causing the accident. If a jury was to believe that as true, certainly it is not beyond reason to find the defendants 100% liable. Further, testimony as to policy does not re-write common law and accordingly inclusion of such testimony, should not be a basis for vacating a second jury verdict in favor of plaintiff. Perhaps the court should focus more on allowing the jury to do its job and less on trying to re-write justice already served.
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.