(Elderly woman) vs. LACMTA

Plaintiff, an elderly woman, sideswiped a bus which she claimed pulled from a bus stop into traffic without warning. The bus operator claimed that the bus was sitting still in its lane of travel on a busy San Fernando Valley street, next to the parking lane, at the time of the collision. There were no reliable witnesses on the bus. A paralegal from a nearby law office happened to be walking with her daughter to get ice cream. She testified that when she first saw the bus, it was just pulling away from the curb in the middle of the block When the witness was approximately two car lengths from the front of the bus, she heard a crash. She testified very convincingly that the front right corner of the bumper of the bus was, at most, six feet from the curb and that the front left corner of the bus’ bumper was into the No. 2 lane when the impact occurred. Plaintiff’s car came past the front of the bus and stopped well beyond where the paralegal was standing. Plaintiff seemed dazed and asked, “What am I supposed to do?” The paralegal testified that Plaintiff was so shaken that she was not making much sense. It would have been easy to settle the case on these facts along, especially because the elderly Plaintiff could have been expected to garner sympathy from a jury (and many carriers would have done so for this reason alone). Nevertheless, we visited the scene to compare the potentially damaging witness’ account with what was depicted in the photographs taken shortly after the accident. The photographs revealed, on very close inspection and after comparison with small portions of landmarks that were barely visible in the frame, that the bus was sitting on the street at least 300 feet past the last bus stop, and at least 150 feet in advance of the next bus stop. Even the spider web-like cracks on the pavement a year later proved where the bus had been sitting that day. Clearly, the paralegal was either lying, or her memory was so muddled that she remembered what she wanted to remember to help the elderly woman’s case. Plaintiff’s attorney held out until after the first trial call, hoping for, at least, a cost of defense offer. Ultimately, while we were awaiting assignment to a courtroom, and after it was obvious that we would not budge, Plaintiff’s attorney gave up and dismissed the case in exchange for a waiver of costs.

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