Case details

Passengers claimed bus’s unsafe start caused injuries




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

forearmfractures left shoulder, left, left elbow right patellfracture, right hand, upper arm
On the afternoon of April 9, 2015, plaintiff Sara Iyer, 69 and her husband, plaintiff Gopal Iyer, 76, were aboard a Valley Transit Authority bus, returning from a routine medical visit. The driver, Christine Hustedt, stopped the bus in Cupertino, and the Iyers attempted to exit from the rear door. Mr. Iyer exited first and extended his hand to assist his wife, who was frail and 5-foot, 1-inch tall. Ms. Iyer lost her balance, and as the bus pulled away, the rear wheels struck Ms. Iyer’s right leg. It also struck Mr. Iyer’s arms, as he tried to pull his wife away from the bus wheels. The Iyers sued Hustedt and Hustedt’s employer, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation District. The Iyers alleged that Hustedt was negligent in the operation of the bus and that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation District was liable for Hustedt’s actions while in the course and scope of her employment. The Iyers claimed that Hustedt never checked the stairwell or side mirrors, and subsequently closed the doors as Ms. Iyers was stepping off the rear door of the bus, as Hustedt believed that all of the passengers had exited. However, Ms. Iyer had no memory of the incident after she got up from her seat to exit the bus and Mr. Iyer had no memory of the incident after he exited the bus, turned to assist his wife, and she began to fall on him. Plaintiffs’ counsel asserted that Hustedt was negligent for failing to check the bus’s stairwell, side mirrors and doors to ensure that all passengers had completely disembarked prior to departing. Counsel contended that the mirrors should have been set up to eliminate any blind spot and to ensure that the driver can see if passengers exited the rear doors. However, plaintiff’s counsel contended that Hustedt’s failure to check to make sure all passengers have safely exited was in violation of California Vehicle Code § 22106 regarding an unsafe start. Counsel also noted that the investigating sheriff concluded that Hustedt did not check to make sure there were no hazards before driving away from the stop, in violation of CVC § 22106, and that the cause of the accident was from an “unsafe start.” In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel asserted that Hustedt violated the transit authority’s own policy, which requires drivers to make sure all passengers have safely exited before closing the bus doors. Defense counsel noted that the Iyers admitted to not having any memory of the accident and that Mr. Iyer specifically testified that he did not see the doors of the bus close on his wife. Counsel also presented uncontroverted evidence that the bus was equipped with feather edge, pressure sensitive, rear doors that automatically re-open if they come into contact with anything as they close. It was also shown that when the rear doors are open, there is an automatic brake locking system that prevents the bus from moving. Defense counsel further noted that all of the safety features were tested after the accident and found to be operational. Thus, counsel asserted that the incident did not occur as the Iyers alleged., The Iyers were both taken to a hospital. Ms. Iyer suffered an avulsion of the right calf, massive swelling of the right thigh, a dislocated right knee, including a right patella fracture. She subsequently required 135 days of hospitalizations and surgeries. Mr. Iyer suffered crush to the right hand and forearm. He also suffered multiple fractures of the left shoulder; left, upper arm; and left elbow. He subsequently spent 32 days in the hospital and was left with limited use of both arms and hands. Thus, the Iyers sought recovery for their respective past and future medical costs, and past and future pain and suffering. Specifically, they claimed that their future medical costs would include a lifetime of home care totaling $1,537,103 for Ms. Iyer and $1,827,889 for Mr. Iyer.
Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, CA

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