Our bus accident attorneys reported on a deadly Greyhound bus accident in Pennsylvania in October 2013. Last week, a jury awarded one of the victims $27 million in damages. Learn more about this verdict and other cases against Greyhound below.
The Greyhound bus was carrying passengers from New York to Ohio the night of the accident, which occurred on I-80 in Pennsylvania. According to court documents, the bus driver fell asleep at the wheel at 1:45 a.m., slamming into the back of a semi-truck. The crash killed one passenger and injured 45 others, including the plaintiff in this case, Mark Soberay.
Soberay suffered a severed urethra (the tube beginning at the bladder, through which urine leaves the body), along with injuries that caused him to lose his right leg. He underwent more than 30 surgeries to repair a hole in his heart, crushed bones in his arm, pelvis, and foot, and torn shoulder muscles. He was asleep in the front passenger seat when the crash occurred, and was trapped for three hours while rescue workers tried to pull him from under the crushed bus.
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Soberay filed an injury lawsuit against Greyhound and its driver about one month after the accident, claiming negligence. Part of Soberay’s argument involved Greyhound’s so-called 150-mile rule. This rule requires drivers to stop and rest every 150 miles to prevent fatigue and inspect tires. The only scheduled stop on the route from New York to Ohio is 225 miles from the departing station.
Greyhound argued that its 150-mile rule is merely a suggestion for drivers, who are free to interpret the policies as they see fit. The company also argued that the semi-truck driver was driving at least 15 miles below the speed limit when the crash occurred, and may have been smoking marijuana. Greyhound’s motion for a mistrial was denied.
The jury decided Greyhound demonstrated reckless indifference to the safety of its passengers and drivers by not enforcing the 150-mile rule and having contradictory rules. They awarded Soberay $23 million in compensatory damages for his extensive injuries and about $4,000,150 in punitive damages. The extra $150 was a clear message to Greyhound to enforce their 150-mile safety rule.
What are Compensatory and Punitive Damages?
In injury lawsuits like this, there are several types of damages that may be awarded to plaintiffs: compensatory (broken down into special or general damages) and punitive.
Special Compensatory Damages cover all expenses or money lost due to the accident. There is no limit to the amount of special damage claims, since they are unique to each victim. Some of the more common special damages include past and future medical bills, lost earnings, and household expenses. Soberay, for example, has had to install a hospital bed in his work space.
General Compensatory Damages are given to plaintiffs for non-monetary harm. This can include emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
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Punitive Damages are only awarded in severe cases, when the defendants behavior was particularly egregious. Punitive damages are meant to punish defendants, commonly in high-profile cases like those involving defective medical devices or prescription drugs, when a defendant is guilty of malicious fraud. Unfortunately, many states have laws that place limits on the amount of punitive damages plaintiffs can collect, thanks to powerful industry lobbyists.
Placing monetary limits on the amount of damages an injured victim can collect is called tort reform. It is an insidious weapon used by conservative politicians and large corporations, to hinder the ability for plaintiffs to file claims and receive compensation for their injuries.
Ohio, where Soberay brought his claim, is a fairly conservative state, and enacted broad tort reform legislation in 2005. The new laws placed restrictions on compensatory and punitive damages, among many other restrictions.
Under the reformed laws, individual plaintiffs in Ohio can receive no more than $350,000 in general compensatory damages. Ohio law requires plaintiffs seeking punitive damages to prove clearly and convincingly that he or she is entitled to them, using evidence that the defendant’s actions demonstrated malicious, aggravated, or egregious fraud.
Even if the plaintiff does prove this as Soberay did he or she can only receive up to two times the amount of compensatory damages. The only exception to this is for purposeful acts resulting in a felony conviction.
More information on each state’s limits on damages can be found here, on our nursing home page (scroll down to find your state). If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed from the negligence of a person or company, contact our firm. We have 30 years fighting on behalf of injured individuals and their families, and provide free case reviews to potential clients nationwide.