SAN PABLO (KPIX 5) -- A jury has awarded an East Bay woman more than $14 million, after she became injured when the AC Transit bus she was riding in hit a speed bump in an incident caught on surveillance video.
Maria Francisco of Richmond thought it would be an uneventful bus ride with her daughter through San Pablo in 2011. Francisco's attorney Brian Panish told KPIX 5 that the AC Transit driver was going twice the speed limit when she hit the speed bump, sending the woman up in the air.
"So she took forces over a thousand pounds, which would be the equivalent of someone striking you with a sledgehammer, which caused a burst fracture in her spinal cord," Panish said.
A fellow passenger began calling for the driver to take Francisco to a hospital. The on-board video shows the driver walking back and threatening the woman with arrest if she was faking her injuries.
"I'm gonna tell you one thing now…there is cameras up here. I'm gonna call and if y'all is faking they gonna prosecute you'all," the driver said in the video.
The video also showed the driver on the phone and telling the woman, "He says if you need an ambulance, you know you gotta pay for it."
"Not only was she in severe pain, but she was scared to death. And I cannot believe the AC Transit administration allows their employees to behave in such a manner," Panish said.
Panish said despite the video, AC Transit denied they had done anything wrong and refused to settle. The jury disagreed and awarded Francisco $14.3 million. They also awarded $1 million to her 4-year-old daughter for emotional distress.
"And they continue to keep their head in the sand and are in denial and refuse to accept any responsibility whatsoever," Panish said.
Panish said, at trial, a defense medical expert actually testified that the victim may have been more likely to react to pain because she is Latina. The attorney said the driver is still employed by the transit agency.
The driver, Dollie Gilmore, was not available for an interview Wednesday night. Her daughter, Renee Gibson, told KPIX 5 that she is good at her job.
A spokesman for AC Transit declined an interview with KPIX 5 on Wednesday, but said they are mulling over the verdict and still deciding what their next steps will be.
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