An Alameda County jury has awarded $15.3 million in damages to a Richmond woman and her daughter for back injuries the woman suffered when an AC Transit bus she was riding in went over a speed bump in San Pablo at twice the speed limit.
Maria Francisco's attorneys, Brian Parish and Spencer Lucas of Los
Angeles, said that on Aug. 27, 2011, Francisco and her daughter, Mia, were
traveling with other family members to a shopping mall to buy gifts for a
However, they said the bus went over a speed bump in a school zone
at more than twice the legal speed limit and Francisco, who was 20 at the
time, was thrown into the air and landed with such extreme force that it
caused a severe traumatic burst fracture to her L1 vertebra.
Her attorneys said Francisco immediately cried out in pain and her
family called for an ambulance but bus driver Dollie Gilmore began verbally
attacking Francisco, including accusing her of lying about her injury and
threatening her with prosecution.
Mia, Francisco's daughter, who was four years old at the time,
witnessed the entire incident and Gilmore's threats, according to her
The entire incident, including Gilmore's conduct, was captured on
videotape by AC Transit cameras.
Parish and Lucas said that as a result of Francisco's injury, she
has had three spine surgeries, including a spinal fusion, and has been in
chronic pain and severely limited in her daily activities, including being
unable to work, since the incident.
Francisco's attorneys said AC Transit waited until two days before
trial to admit liability for her injury and then offered her a $2.75 million
They said that during the trial in the courtroom of Superior Court
Judge Gail Brewster Bereola, AC Transit disputed the necessity of the
surgeries Francisco underwent, including the emergency spine surgery
recommended and performed by doctors a few days after the incident.
Francisco's attorneys said the bus agency also challenged every
other aspect of her damages, including her future medical expenses, loss of
earnings and pain and suffering, suggesting that she was lying and
exaggerating the nature of her injury.
In their verdict earlier this week, jurors awarded Francisco a
total of $10 million for past and future pain and suffering, $3.38 million
for past and future medical expenses, $800,000 for future loss of earnings
and $127,472 for past family services.
Jurors also awarded Mia, Francisco's daughter, $1 million for past
and future emotional distress for witnessing the incident.
Parish and Lucas said the damages award for Francisco and her
daughter is largest known jury verdict against AC Transit.
Parish said in a statement, "Through no fault of her own, Ms.
Francisco suffered an extremely painful injury that will continue to impact
her for the rest of her life."
Parish said, "Rather than accepting responsibility for its
negligence, AC Transit instead chose to challenge Ms. Francisco's
credibility. That tactic didn't work, and the jury did the right thing with
Parish said, "This verdict will ensure that Ms. Francisco is able
to get the long term treatment that she needs and will be able to take care
of herself and her daughter. That is what this case was about."
AC Transit said in a statement today that the $15.3 million jury
award was less than half of what Francisco was seeking but the agency still
considers the amount to be "excessive" and not supported by the facts and the
However, the bus agency said it acknowledges that it was
responsible for the accident.
AC Transit added that it "is considering all available
Gilmore is still working for bus agency, according to spokesman
--Bay City News