One of the most interesting cases that I have read in the last couple of years occurred in Northern California involving a traffic accident in the Trestle Glen district of Oakland. This case presents a lesson in how issues of liability can change even though the facts themselves do not change.
It involved a young lady about 18 years old. She was crossing the street in Oakland, CA in an attempt to board a bus. As she was walking across the street, she was hit by a transit bus operated by the defendants. According to the facts, it was a dark and rainy night. The police reported that she ran across three lanes of traffic against the light when she saw her bus approaching the bus stop. She missed catching the bus and instead the bus struck her. The police report had her responsible for the incident.
The facts of the accident set out to describe three things: 1) First, the victim’s liability for running across the street against the light, in the rain, and apparently out of the crosswalk. 2) Secondly the police confirmed that initially, it was the fault of the victim, so she ‘caused’ her own injuries by her action. 3) Thirdly, there was a dramatic shift in liability. They are the same facts but we can see how liability is such a fleeting concept.
A plaintiff Attorney established that the bus driver was in the course and scope of her employment, traveling at a speed unsafe for the conditions and failing to exercise the heightened level of care that was necessary to proceed through dark and rainy weather as the bus approached the traffic intersection. The plaintiff Attorney brilliantly established that the bus stop was located in a dangerous spot. Any passengers in an attempt to board the bus would have to approach the stop in a fashion that would have exposed them to the dangers of being seriously injured, not just by the bus but by other passing vehicles. By adding that to the addition of the darkness and the rainy weather, we have a substantial danger that a potential bus passenger could not avoid. The plaintiff Attorney had a further theory that the bus driver should have easily spotted the potential passenger/injured plaintiff even under these conditions. The injury to our victim resulted in paralysis in the right leg, fractures, and an amputation of the left leg. It is interesting to see how the case moved on to a Settlement. Prior to settlement were Depositions skillfully handled by plaintiff counsel and set the case up for TRIAL. Interestingly enough, this case settled for OVER 20 MILLION DOLLARS.
This is like many of the cases that Nelson & Natale will take on and represent where liability is poor. Many of which offer a real challenge to prove liability on the part of the defendant through skillful lawyering. It goes to show the potential of a case with substantial injuries, although liability is challenging, with top notch lawyering, excellent results are a real possibility. The saying goes, when it comes to lawyering, ‘YOU CAN ONLY BE A WINNER BY CHOOSING A WINNER.’ NELSON & NATALE