Appellate Court Upholds Jury Finding Bus to Blame For Crushing Death of Pedestrian - No Eyewitnesses
On April 12, 2016, an Appellate Court agreed with a Bronx jury in a 3-2 decision which held that there was sufficient proof presented at trial to hold the NYC Transit Authority responsible for the crushing death of a 51 year old mother at a bus stop. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident; however, there was compelling physical evidence. There were photographs of the accident scene with the decedent's body in the roadway. The jury also considered DNA analysis of blood and body tissue found by swabbing the bus tires at the scene. The pedestrian was found dead under the bus lying face down on the service road of the Henry Hudson Parkway in the Bronx. Finding that the jury was presented with facts from which both "negligence and causation could be reasonably inferred," the Appellate Court stated the jury had not engaged in impermissible speculation to reach its verdict of approximately $1,000,000 for the wrongful death of the pedestrian. Oates v New York City Transit Authority, Appellate Division, First Department, New York explains how circumstantial evidence (as opposed to direct evidence) alone can be sufficient to prove your case.
According to the Appellate Court: "In particular, plaintiff's showed that the decedent's body had been crushed by the bus at such an angle that the bus driver, pulling out of the bus stop, should have, with the proper use of his senses, seen decedent." The plaintiff's accident reconstruction expert explained that the decedent was found five feet into the roadway and north of the bus stop because she had been propelled there by the impact with the bus. Two of the five appellate court justices disagreed and would have dismissed the case noting: "Had decedent been struck by the bus and her body propelled...five feet...the contents of the grocery bag and her tote bag would have scattered onto the roadway."
The jury accepted the plaintiff's medical expert's testimony, based on the autopsy report, that the decedent likely survived the impact for two to five seconds while consciously experiencing pain. The jury's award for pain and suffering of $300,000 was also found reasonable.