Jurors in Georgia awarded $5 million to a woman who suffered a paratransit van fall that caused her to lose her left arm and rendered her right arm useless.
Deliberations lasted about 7 hours before finding the company that operated the non-emergency transport van was partially responsible for the 2012 accident that prompted the lawsuit, Smith v. Logisticare.
At the time of the incident, plaintiff was a left leg amputee and she was traveling in defendant’s van to get to a dialysis appointment. She reportedly was not properly secured into the van, and fell out of her wheelchair when the van hit a pot hole. Because she was not properly belted into position. Crush fractures suffered to her arms necessitated her left arm be removed and her right arm no longer functional.
According to Courtroom View Network, plaintiff lived in her own home prior to the fall. However, she was no longer self-reliant. She depended on others for constant assistance, and was forced to move into a nursing home. She also reportedly suffers from constant pain and is unable to carry out activities of daily living without help.
Now 63, plaintiff argued defendant breached its duty of care per the transportation agreement defendant held with the state’s department of community health. She asserted defendant failed to properly monitor the van or driver, who was an employee of another company, MIDS, that was contracted to provide paratransit transportation. MIDS was not a party to the case, yet was found 54 percent responsible for the accident.
Plaintiff asserted that defendant Logisticare should be liable for the other company’s negligence. Logisticare insisted that wasn’t possible because MIDS is an independent contractor and Logisticare couldn’t legally assert control over MIDS’ operations even if it wanted to.
Jurors found Logisticare 36 percent liable for the accident.
Although $5 million sounds like a significant amount, she had been asking for $24 million in damages for her personal injury. She asserted $19 million in damages for pain and suffering, plus $1 million for each year of her remaining life expectancy. Her attorney explained that with just one functional limb, her right leg, she has a greatly diminished quality of life.
Despite Logisticare’s claims that it could not “meddle” in MIDS’ operations, plaintiff argued the designation didn’t reflect the actual arrangement, and rather was in place to insulate Logsticare from liability for situations just like this.
What’s more, plaintiff asserted, she had ridden improperly belted in this van three times a week for three months before this incident. This ran contrary to Logisticare’s assertions that it had been spot-checking the rides. “It shouldn’t take a lawsuit,” her attorney asserted, for the company to find out the woman was improperly belted for months.
Logisticare operates in 39 states – including Florida.
In many of these cases, the federal department of transportation is responsible for securing safe transport of individuals with disabilities, per Section 37.173 of the DOT Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. That means individuals must be properly trained. The ADA’s Title III provision requires private transportation businesses offer readily accessible vehicles for persons with disabilities.
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Anderson v. Fitness International – Overcoming Liability Waivers by Proving Gross Negligence, Nov. 1, 2016, Boca Raton Personal Injury Lawyer Blog