Editor's note: CVN will publish video of the trial as soon as possible.
Atlanta—A Fulton County Superior Court judge Thursday entered an $18.75-plus million post-verdict judgment against MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, following trial over a paratransit van fall that left a passenger with catastrophic brain damage. Johnson v. MARTA, 2017CV287279.
The order, entered by Judge Todd Markle, stems from last week’s jury verdict awarding $25 million in damages and finding MARTA 75% responsible for Jaccolah Johnson’s 2016 fall from one of the transit service’s “Mobility” vans. Johnson, who rode the van due to mobility problems, fell from the bus’s step as she exited the vehicle. The accident has left Johnson, 66 at the time of the fall, in a vegetative state.
Jurors found Johnson 25% responsible.
Thursday’s judgment also includes more than $72,000 in pre-judgment interest due to MARTA’s failure to accept a $5 million settlement offer in the case.
The four-day trial last week turned on whether MARTA met its duty to safeguard its disabled passengers as they disembarked from their paratransit vehicles. Johnson’s attorneys maintained that a sharply angled exit step, a poorly designed handrail, and MARTA’s failure to require drivers to shadow their passengers as they exited, caused the fall.
But MARTA argued Johnson herself was to blame, noting she had ridden the bus previously and rejected the driver’s offer of assistance. During last Thursday’s closings, Mabry & McClelland’s James Scarbrough walked jurors through MARTA’s training, which instructs drivers to ask whether each rider needs assistance and provide the level of help each rider requests, based on their individual needs. “Once a person says they want assistance, what does MARTA do? We do whatever they want,” Scarbrough said “Do you want MARTA making decisions for you? Or do you want to be able to make decisions for yourself?”
But Fried Rogers Goldberg’s Michael Goldberg, representing the plaintiffs, reminded jurors of testimony from transportation expert Douglas Cross, who concluded MARTA breached industry standards in failing to shadow Johnson as she exited the bus. “Doug Cross, the only expert [on the subject] to testify, said one thing. If that driver had been up, this doesn’t happen,” Goldberg said. “If MARTA had given the driver the tools [so] that she knew what she was supposed to do, [the fall] never happens.”
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Rachel Tyler and Jaccolah Johnson are represented by Fried Rogers Goldberg’s Michael Goldberg and Joseph Fried, The Singleton Law Firm’s Donald Singleton, and Eyre Law & Mediation’s Melanie Eyre, according to court documents.
MARTA is represented by Mabry & McClelland’s James Scarbrough, Dawn Pettigrew, and Rachel Reed, according to court records.
CVN will publish video of the trial as soon as it becomes available.