$18.8M Awarded to Atlanta Transit Rider for Brain-Damaging Fall

Earlier this month, a jury in Georgia found that the transit system in Atlanta was responsible for a disabled person falling. Due to the system’s negligence, the plaintiff suffered from an injury that left in a completely vegetative state permanently. The jury awarded the plaintiff $18.8 million in damages.

The jury discussed the details of the case over a four-day trial, after which they thoughtfully deliberated a conclusion for over two hours. In the end, the jury found that the case lied in favor of, Jaccolah Johnson, the plaintiff, and that the transit system was responsible. According to the jury, negligence by the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority was the primary reason that she fell off the designated MARTA mobility bus that’s designed for disabled passengers, in 2016.

The plaintiff, Jaccolah Johnson, was already disabled prior to the incident and was able to articulate the event through her guardian, Rachel Tyler. She said that the driver failed to help her get off the bus and she fell because of a badly angled step while trying to get off alone.

Initially, the jury awarded Johnson $25 million in damages, but then considered how she held 25 percent of liability for the accident, while MARTA was liable by 75 percent. Due to the split in liability, the final award for damages was decreased to $18.8 million. An Atlanta personal injury lawyer from Fried Rogers Goldberg LLC., Michael Goldberg represented Johnson in the trial.

Last Friday, Atlanta personal injury lawyer Michael Goldberg explained that the main point of concern, in this case, is that MARTA has specific guidelines in writing that instruct mobility bus drivers to assist disabled people, who they quoted as part of a ‘vulnerable population’. According to these rules, drivers are supposed to help them exit the bus, whether they ask for help or they don’t, something that the driver failed to do in Johnson’s case.

Michael Goldberg reiterated his point to clarify that MARTA had thorough instructions and that they trained their drivers on the basis on these guidelines, so the jury wouldn’t accept an excuse that these were ‘merely recommendations’ that could be ignored. He also pointed out that the badly angled step at the bus’ exit is an issue. After announcing their verdict, the jury informed him that hopefully, the trial will lead to MARTA following the rules they have in place, or redesigning their buses to make them friendlier for people who need assistance.

Johnson’s guardian filed the lawsuit in March 2017 and based on the records of a pretrial order she filed in October, the plaintiff alleged that MARTA was negligent in fulfilling their responsibilities to the disabled population. It said that they were operating a bus that lacked a proper handrail and external landing, and didn’t act on their policies that require mobility bus drivers to help riders as they exit the bus.

Because Johnson fell from the step in early 2016, she suffered from a brain injury, as it states in the order. In their section of the order, MARTA defended themselves by explaining that the driver offered to help and that Johnson declined, which makes it her own negligence. 

If you or someone you know has suffered from personal injury as a result of negligence on someone else’s part, feel free to contact an Atlanta personal injury lawyer at The Eichholz Law Firm.