SAN FRANCISCO, CA – On November 06, 2013, Partner Luke Ellis with the California personal injury firm of Gillin, Jacobson, Ellis, Larsen & Lucey (“GJEL”) finalized a $20.452 million settlement on behalf of its client Jung Hye Lee, who suffered massive injuries when hit by a bus operated by Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. On March 14, 2012, Ms. Lee, an 18 year-old student at the time, was a pedestrian attempting to catch an AC Transit bus in Montclair, CA. It was a rainy night and she was waiting across the street from the bus stop under an awning of a restaurant. When Ms. Lee saw the bus approaching the bus stop at the intersection of Moraga and LaSalle Avenues, she thought it was going to stop. She ran across three lanes of traffic against a red light, and was run over by the bus as it passed by the bus stop and through the intersection on a green light. The accident caused catastrophic injuries, including amputation of Ms. Lee's left leg, sensate paralysis in her right leg, and pelvic fractures.
A two-month police investigation and report found Ms. Lee exclusively at fault for the accident, with no associated factors on AC Transit or its driver. Few law firms would venture to take a case against a public entity under these circumstances, but Mr. Ellis and his law firm started over with their own investigation. They re-interviewed witnesses and canvassed the neighborhood securing important new evidence and testimony. An evaluation and analysis of the intersection was undertaken to document the movement of buses and pedestrians in the area, utilizing a 3-D engineering survey. A detailed examination of hours of onboard bus surveillance videos of the accident produced critical new facts. The smallest details became significant, such as the movement of an umbrella in the background of one camera view pinpointing the time and rate of bus braking and deceleration. Meticulous examination at depositions of bus employees and witnesses produced testimony demonstrating the defendant's ability to see Ms. Lee in time to recognize the need to stop for her.
Mr. Ellis employed over a dozen expert witnesses, examined and photographed the bus in question, and then re-created the accident at the scene utilizing state-of-the-art live, as well as animated techniques. Due to the critical medical and housing needs of Ms. Lee, GJEL needed to act quickly and move the case without delay. The firm’s exhaustive efforts paid off, shedding new light on a tragic accident and effectuating a favorable resolution of a complex matter.
“There was an urgency to go beyond the facts presented in the police report,” said Mr. Ellis, lead counsel on the case. "This case was a long, difficult journey, but we had to tell the story of what really happened that night. It was such a tragedy, but at least this recovery allows Ms. Lee hope for the future."
On the eve of trial and after a two-day mediation, Mr. Ellis achieved this record-setting settlement, making it the largest amount ever paid to an individual by a bus company in California history.
Jung Hye Lee v. Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, et al., Docket No. RG12647237.