Wheelchair Lift – Paratransit Bus Accident

Record Jury Verdict In Placer County

Proving up the nature and extent of the damages as well as liability against the transportation service were key components of the action. This matter was tried with Christopher Wood, a partner in the firm. The pretrial offer was $2 million.

Roger A. Dreyer and Chris Wood obtain $6.4 million verdict in Placer County for brain injury that resulted from Mr. Avery being dropped between four and six feet off of a wheelchair lift onto his head. This is the largest personal injury verdict in Placer County history.

On April 12, 2008, Thomas Avery, a 38-year-old C4-quadriplegic, was dropped off a wheelchair lift while being loaded by MV Transportation who operates the Paratransit System for the city of Roseville. Thomas Avery was rendered an incomplete quadriplegic in 1989 when he was involved in a motor vehicle collision. Despite his disability, he returned to college and continued his education. He was then successful in obtaining multiple jobs in the computer-aided drafting field, where he excelled. He also worked in two different after school programs with at-risk children. He was inspiration to those who knew him and understood just what he had overcome. “He was never a victim” his father Marvin Avery told the jury. He made the best of his quality of life despite his severe disability.

The city of Roseville replaced a part on the wheelchair lift on Feb. 22, 2008 (six weeks before the injury). However, the city failed to replace the part properly and as a result, the nuts and bolts began to loosen and literally fall off. The city failed to inspect the wheelchair lift on a routine inspection on March 4, 2008, so the condition continued to worsen. The driver for MV Transportation who is charged with the duty to inspect the lift, failed to do so and loaded Mr. Avery onto the lift. The driver also parked on a severe slope so the lift was tipped down toward the ground. To make matters worse, the driver then failed to use the occupant restraint belt to ensure Mr. Avery would stay on the lift. The city and MV Transportation combined to create one of the most dangerous situations possible for Mr. Avery, who was relying upon them 100 percent for his safety.

The lawyers for MV and the city argued it was the fault of Mr. Avery and the Ricon Corporation, who manufactured the lift. MV Transportation was so indignant that they only offered a small sum to resolve the case before trial. Once the jury left to deliberate, that nominal offer was withdrawn and MV stated they wanted to “go with the jury verdict.” Well, the jury awarded Mr. Avery $6.4 million, and apportioned the fault between MV and the city of Roseville. MV was held 83 percent at fault and the city was 17 percent. That equates to the city being responsible for over $1 million of the judgment. MV will be responsible for the remaining $5.4 million.

A national corporation (MV Transportation, Inc.) and a powerful government entity took on a quadriplegic. They threw lawyers and hundreds of thousands of dollars in professional witnesses at Mr. Avery in an attempt to twist the truth. After dropping him on his head and taking from him what little he had left, they refused to take responsibility and attempted to take advantage of Mr. Avery and his disability. They forced him through a two-year litigation process and then through trial. This is a classic case of versus Goliath. The benefit of our legal system is that can take on Goliath, or even two Goliaths, and get justice. This is a wonderful example of just how valuable our legal system is to the citizens of our state. Even the most vulnerable of our citizens can beat the most powerful of corporations and obtain justice.