Two passengers alleging they were injured when a motorist struck the rear of a Metro transit bus were awarded $500 and $1000 following a three-day trial in Madison County Associate Judge Steven Stobbs’ courtroom.
Jurors found in favor of plaintiffs Lisa Boda and Prester Graves and against defendant Anna Rodriguez after deliberating roughly 50 minutes on Oct. 17. Trial began Oct. 15.
Boda was awarded $500 and Graves was awarded $1,000.
Jurors found that defendants Eric Fry and Agency for Community Transit Inc. were not liable.
Boda and Graves were represented at trial by Charles Armbruster and Mike Blotevogel of Armbruster, Dripps, Winterscheidt & Blotevogel LLC in Maryville.
Rodriguez was represented by Michael P. Murphy of Freeark, Harvey & Mendillo PC in Belleville.
Fry and Agency for Community Transit were represented by Donald J. Ohl of Knapp, Ohl & Green in Edwardsville.
Boda and Graves had sought to amend their complaint on Oct. 17 to plead punitive damages against Rodriguez after the defendant indicated that she intended to admit liability days before trial was set to begin.
“If defendant Rodriguez is allowed to amend her pleadings long after the close of discovery, plaintiffs should be allowed the opportunity to amend within a couple of days of her suggesting that was her intention,” the motion stated.
“In light of the deposition testimony previously offered in this matter, and the proposed amendment by defendant Rodriguez, it is now apparent that she admits it is her fault that she rear-ended a bus without any extenuating circumstances – there has been no testimony suggesting poor weather, unexpected lane closures, or the like,” it continues. “The proposed third amended complaint therefore pleads willful and wanton misconduct on the part of defendant Rodriguez.”
Boda filed her four-count complaint in November 2015 against Rodriguez, Fry and Madison County Transit, which was later substituted with defendant Agency for Community Transit Inc. Fry was the driver of the bus.
The case was consolidated with Graves’ case on March 23, 2016.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs allege they were passengers on a Madison County Metro East Transit bus on March 9, 2015. At approximately 3:30 p.m., the bus was stopped in the easternmost, northbound traffic lane on Milton Road at its intersection with Coronado as passengers were loading.
At the same time, Rodriguez was driving a Chevrolet Cavalier in the same lane as the bus when she allegedly struck the rear of the bus, the suit states.
The plaintiffs allege Rodriguez failed to keep her vehicle under proper control, operated her vehicle at a speed which was greater than reasonable, failed to brake or avoid colliding with the bus, failed to keep a proper lookout and failed to yield the right-of-way.
As a result, Boda claims she suffered injuries to her neck and back as well as trauma to her head and neurological system. Graves claims he suffered injuries to his neck and back.
Rodriguez denied liability in her answer to the complaint. However, she later admitted she was at fault in the collision in her Oct. 15 motion in limine.
Fry had argued that the fact that the bus was stopped to load passengers did not mean he was negligent.
Fry and Agency for Community Transit filed a counterclaim against Rodriguez on Feb. 17, 2016. They argued that if they are found liable, then they are entitled to contribution from Rodriguez.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1436