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Court Upholds $15.3 Million Verdict Against AC Transit For Woman's Broken Back In Incident Caught On Camera

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A court Tuesday upheld a $15.3 million verdict against the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District - the largest ever against the agency - for an incident caught on surveillance video that left a passenger with a broken back.

Richmond resident Maria Francisco and her daughter were sitting in the back seat of an AC Transit bus on August 27, 2011 when it hit a speed bump at about 30 miles an hour in a 15 mile-an-hour zone. The speed bump sent Francisco flying in the air and back down hard on the seat, fracturing a vertebra.

The court found the lawsuit verdict reach in May against AC Transit and the driver was based on substantial evidence against the agency and the driver who was found to be operating the bus in a reckless manner, according to Francisco's attorney Brian Panish.

On-board surveillance video of the incident shows the driver, Dollie Gilmore, accusing Francisco of faking the injury and threatening her and other passengers who went to her aid with prosecution.

Panish said he believes the verdict will send a message to AC Transit to take steps to supervise their drivers to make sure similar incidents don't happen, noting Gilmore is still behind the wheel. "We're hoping that the AC Transit will discipline their drivers. The driver involved in this incident is still driving a bus, has suffered no discipline, and continues to be out there operating, carrying the public, and that is not a good thing," he said.

Francisco still experiencing pain on a daily basis and continues to receive treatment for her injury, said Panish.

In 2011, AC Transit agreed to pay $10.5 million to a woman who was severely injured and left with permanent nerve damage when she was struck in 2008 by one of the agency's buses while she was in a crosswalk.

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