As we went to press, Doug Saeltzer and Doris Cheng obtained a multimillion dollar jury verdict against the Los Angeles County Municipal Transit Authority (LACMTA), on behalf of the mother of 21-year-old bicyclist who was hit and killed after changing lanes in front of a moving bus. All experts agreed that the turn was too abrupt to give the MTA bus driver enough time to react and avoid the collision, but Doug and Doris proved that the driver should have seen and avoided the cyclist long before he changed lanes, showing he was alongside the left hand side of the bus for 15-16 seconds before impact. By the bus driver’s own training and experience, she was taught to have used her mirrors to see cyclists and let them pass in such a circumstance.
Just prior to the collision, the bus had been stopped at a designated stop, blocking the right lane of travel. The on-board video from the bus showed that the bus operator, once a passenger boarded, departed the bus stop without checking her mirrors or her surroundings. The bus driver was obligated to identify the bicyclist, and permit him to pass her and return to the right lane, before leaving her stop. She testified she never saw the bicyclist prior to impact. The cyclist was riding a fixed gear bicycle (also known as a “fixie”), which did not have an independent mechanical brake. Nor was he wearing a helmet, although a helmet would not have saved his life in this instance.
Our client, the surviving mother of the cyclist, had no contact with her son for nine years between the ages of 3 and 12. His father was abusive and kept her away from her son. When the son was 12, his school discovered that the father was physically abusing him. The decedent was removed from the father’s custody, and the court granted full custody to our client who raised him from that point forward. He had a loving relationship with his mother, her partner and two half-sisters. At the time of his death, the son was living in Chicago, but had returned to Los Angeles to visit his mother and siblings. He had been in Los Angeles for three months with no specific date for returning to Chicago.
The jury of 6 women and 6 men awarded $4 million for past and future non-economic damages and apportioned 65% comparative fault to the bicyclist. The net verdict before costs and prejudgment interest (Doug and Doris had tendered a Section 998 offer for $1,000,000 before trial) was $1.4 million. Defendant offered $100,000 the day before trial commenced.
We congratulate Doug and Doris on this excellent result.