A Jefferson County, Alabama jury awarded $12 million last month to a number of passengers who were injured in a 2015 MAX bus crash in Fairfield. The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) operates the system. The evidence in this case revealed that a number of safety-related changes are badly needed.
During the trial it was proved that the driver started to slump over the steering wheel and fainted. The bus went out of control and ran over a curb, falling on its side into a ravine. The jury heard that the bus driver had been involved in 14 accidents while driving a MAX bus. The bus driver, who had worked for the BJCTA since 1988, had a medical condition that caused him to faint. The BJCTA was aware of that issue, but had no policies or procedure in place to remove him, or other drivers who were unsafe to be on the road.
The BJCTA’s existing process requires visually evaluating employees when they arrive to work, before giving them a key card that allows them to drive a bus. Those supervisors are not informed about the individual drivers’ medical history or conditions. The supervisor in this case had no way of knowing the driver had a history of fainting, nor that he had not taken his medication that day.
Of the $12 million verdict, $6 million was for compensatory damages and $6 million for punitive damages. The punitive damages will be divided equally between each Plaintiff. Sara Williams, Braden Bishop, Daniel Lehane, Ronald Jackson, Hiram Griffin and Antonio Spurling represented the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The claims involved severe personal injuries and one death. Sara Williams and Brandon Bishop were the lead lawyers in the trial.