Bus rider's head bump trial goes to jury

Amelia Flood May 11, 2010, 10:29am


The jury in a case over a man's alleged injuries after a bus jolted him in his seat began deliberations after less than a day of testimony in Madison County.

Plaintiff Richard Dermott was the last witness in the plaintiff's case and defense attorney Donald Ohl presented a brief case centered on document evidence.

Both attorneys then made their closing arguments to jurors.

Dermott claims that a driver of the bus he was riding drove too fast over a bump. The jolt allegedly caused him to hit his head on the bus's ceiling and for him to injure his back and neck.

The incident took place in August 2007.

Madison County Transit (MCT) was originally named as the defendant in the case.

According to court records, MCT leased the bus to the current defendant, the Agency for Community Transit (ACT). ACT was substituted as defendant in the suit.

Plaintiff's attorney Earl Hubbs pointed out to jurors that the bus driver did not have to be speeding to cause his client's injury.

"Too fast is too fast," he said. He stressed that ACT had a duty to ensure it complied with the highest standard of care for Dermott's safety. He argued to jurors that the bus operator had not warned the driver so the bump that caused the injuries, "sneaked up" on her, a statement jurors heard while watching a video of the incident taken by the bus's camera.

Hubbs did not specify what damages his client was seeking for pain and the loss of his normal life. He asked jurors to award about $16,000 in medical bills.

Ohl countered that although ACT had a duty to ensure it cared for Dermott's safety, nothing presented in the case proved it had been liable for the injuries.

"In a case like this it's not a situation where because you're injured, you're entitled to money," Ohl said. "The highest duty of care doesn't mean my client has to be perfect."

Ohl pointed to the driver's report from the incident day that showed she was driving 15 to 20 miles per hour and pointed to what he called a lack of medical testimony by Dermott's neurologist about whether the accident specifically caused the injury.

He also cited parts of Dermott's deposition in the case in which Dermott testified he did not know how fast the bus was going, he didn't think the driver drove recklessly and that he was unsure of whether or not she saw the bump in the road.

The jury began deliberations just after 2:30 p.m.

Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla presides. Hylla denied a defense move for a directed verdict out of the jury's hearing just prior to closing arguments.

The case is Madison case number 08-L-525.

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