On a January evening in 2008, 49-year-old secretary Joyce Ann Jacobs was run over and killed by a public bus in Sacramento, California. Almost five years later, in early November 2012, a Sacramento Superior Court jury saw fit to award her child and husband more than $2.4 million in damages for her wrongful death.
Jacobs was a church musician, a foster mother and a community volunteer.
Her husband, a Sacramento pastor, was awarded $2 million "in noneconomic damages for the loss of his wife's love and consortium," meaning companionship and affection. He also got almost $400,000 in economic damages for "past and future financial support and household services" he will no longer get because of her death. Their son Anthony received $30,000.
The bus was operated by the Sacramento Regional Transit District, known as RT, the public agency that runs the bus and light rail transit system for the Sacramento metro area.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the jury found 9-3 that Jacobs was in a crosswalk when she was hit. That she was in the crosswalk and not the street was key to the decision. Reportedly, the defendant had asserted that the victim was negligent by crossing "in the middle of the street" rather than in the crosswalk, and that the driver did not see her.
The two sides argued in court about what the physical evidence at the scene showed about the victim's location in the street.
Although the plaintiffs had asked the jury for between $9 and $10 million in damages, the defendant's attorney reportedly said that because of the victim's poor health because of obesity and renal disease, her shortened lifespan made a maximum of $1.1 million, if anything, appropriate.
Reportedly, the trial was emotional and sometimes accusatory. According to The Sacramento Bee, one juror called their deliberations once they got the case a "battle" in which they painstakingly reviewed every charge and weighed the credibility of the evidence. He said they were largely influenced by the bus driver's decision to call RT first instead of immediately calling 911.
Issues in this bus-pedestrian accident case illustrate why it's important to have an experienced California personal injury attorney at your side should you or a loved one be the victim of someone else's negligence in a motor vehicle accident. The legal issues are complex and the evidence can be challenging to gather, process and present.
For example, the jury needed to be presented with solid evidence to illustrate the nature of the marital relationship in this case in order to be able to place a value on something so objective as love and consortium.
Suing a governmental entity like a transit authority can also sometimes present legal hurdles for a plaintiff, as can dealing with involved insurance companies.
So be sure to consult with a motor vehicle accident lawyer should you find yourself or a loved one the victim of someone else's negligence on the road.