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Panish Shea & Boyle LLP Announces Record Affirmance of $15.3 Million Verdict Against Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District


The California Court of Appeal has upheld a $15,313,703 landmark
judgment against Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District ("AC Transit")
for a woman and her daughter after the woman suffered a broken back
while riding on a bus being driven recklessly by an AC Transit employee.
Plaintiffs Maria Francisco and her daughter, Mia, were represented on
appeal and at trial by Brian Panish, Spencer Lucas and Patrick Gunning
of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP. Plaintiffs were also represented on appeal
by Margaret M. Grignon of Reed Smith LLP and in the case by Ivan Golde
of the Law Offices of Ivan W. Golde.

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"The decision affirming the jury's verdict will hopefully force AC
Transit's insurance company to do the right thing to pay the judgment in
full," says Spencer Lucas. "Ms. Francisco owes more than $1 million in
past medical expenses and is in desperate need of ongoing
treatment. This decision will allow her to finally get the treatment she

On August 27, 2011, Maria Francisco, her daughter and other family
members were passengers on an AC Transit bus, traveling to a shopping
mall to purchase clothes and a gift for Mia who would be starting
preschool. The bus went over a speed hump in a school zone at 30 mph,
more than twice the legal speed limit, throwing Ms. Francisco into the
air from her metal seat and causing her to land with such extreme force
that she suffered a severe traumatic burst fracture to her L1 vertebra.
Despite her obvious distress, the AC Transit bus driver began verbally
attacking Ms. Francisco in front of her daughter, accusing her of lying
about her injury and threatening her with prosecution. The entire
incident, including the bus driver's conduct, was captured on videotape
by AC Transit cameras.

Ms. Francisco underwent three spinal surgeries, including a spinal
fusion, as a result of her injury and it would take nearly three years
for AC Transit to admit liability. Throughout the 2014 trial, the public
transit agency disputed the necessity of Ms. Francisco's surgeries and
every other aspect of the 21-year-old mother's damages including her
future medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering,
suggesting that she was lying and exaggerating the nature of her injury.
The jury disagreed, awarding Ms. Francisco a total of $10,000,000 in
past and future pain and suffering, $3,385,965 in past and future
medical expenses, $800,266 for future loss of earnings and $127,472 for
past family services. Ms. Francisco's daughter was awarded $1,000,000
for past and future emotional distress relating to her witnessing the
incident. The trial court denied the defendants motion for new trial on
July 29, 2014 and an appeal was filed by AC Transit counsel on September
2, 2014.

On appeal, AC Transit contended the $15,313,703 judgment must be
reversed, citing erroneous accusations of "rampant and deliberate
misconduct" by plaintiffs' counsel that deprived defendants of a fair
trial. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the defense contentions and
found the trial court did not err in determining there was no
prejudicial attorney misconduct, noting that, "An attorney does not
commit misconduct by questioning the 'persuasive force' or merits of the
other side's argument."

The Court of Appeal also disagreed with defense contentions that the
trial court engaged in prejudicial judicial misconduct by making several
comments that displayed a bias in favor of plaintiffs, including
comments the trial court made during the testimony of plaintiff's expert
and improperly "validating" Ms. Francisco's pain and "bolstering her
credibility" by commenting that she appeared uncomfortable while
testifying in court, and calling for a short break. As noted by Acting
Presiding Justice William McGuiness, "a trial court has the power to ask
questions of witnesses to elicit material facts and make comments to
clarify testimony."

Additional defense contentions rejected by the Appellate Court include
the exclusion of defense counsel's expert testimony regarding future
surgery, the admittance of "undiscounted medical bills" into evidence
while excluding any self-pay discounts, and that the jury was influenced
because "the noneconomic damages [the jury awarded] are grossly
disproportionate to plaintiffs' harm, indicating that they were tainted
by passion and prejudice induced by the pervasive misconduct and other
errors at trial." Of the latter, the Court found there to be sufficient
evidence to support the award and affirmed the judgment for both Maria
and Mia.

As such, the Francisco verdict remains the largest known judgment
against AC Transit to date.

AC Transit was represented on appeal by Dana Alden Fox, Shawn A. Toliver
and Julie M. Azevedo of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP as well as
Michael G. Yoder and Sabrina Heron Strong of O'Melveny & Myers LLP.

Francisco v. Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
Court of
Appeal of the State of California, First Appellate District, Division
Case No. RG12-617444

About Panish Shea & Boyle LLP

Panish Shea & Boyle LLP represents plaintiffs in wrongful death,
catastrophic personal injury, product liability, mass torts, and
business litigation cases. Firm attorneys are repeatedly recognized for
their excellence by other trial lawyers, legal organizations and
publications nationwide and have dedicated themselves to obtaining
justice for clients who are dealing with a life-altering injury, death
of a family member or other challenges caused by the wrongful act of
another. The firm is consistently ranked among the best plaintiff's law
firms in the country, including by U.S. News & World Report, where it
has been recognized as a Tier One law firm in the areas of Plaintiffs
Personal Injury Litigation and Plaintiffs Product Liability Litigation,
as well as by the National Law Journal which named the firm in its Elite
Trial Lawyers list.

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