New Jersey Transit recently agreed to settle a lawsuit with a man who was struck by a transit bus for $12.75 million.
A lawsuit involving a New Jersey Transit bus hitting a man in 2016 recently settled for $12.75 million. According to the suit filed shortly after the incident, the man, Jason Gillespie, “suffered traumatic brain injuries after being struck by the bus, whose accident-prone driver tested positive for cocaine.”
The incident occurred back on November 2, 2016, when Gillespie was crossing the intersection of Summit Avenue and Union Place. As a result of the collision, he “suffered a permanent brain injury, multiple brain hemorrhages, skull fractures, a right clavicle fracture, and multiple rib fractures,” according to his attorney, David Mazie of Mazie, Slater, Katz & Freeman.
Prior to the incident, Gillespie could work and care for himself. Now, he can no longer work and needs assistance in completing ordinary daily tasks. He also struggles with “severe aphasia, meaning he has extreme difficulty forming words.”
What about the driver? Did he have a history of prior collisions and drug use? Well, according to the court records, the driver, Ronald Lewis, “was involved in 54 motor vehicle collisions dating back to 1996 while driving for New Jersey Transit.” He quit shortly after hitting Gillespie. Prior to the accident, his license had been “suspended for 41 days for violations such as driving with a suspended license, careless driving, leaving the bus unattended with passengers on board, using a cell phone while driving and failing to follow a police officer’s instructions.” Additionally, Mazie noted Lewis was also previously “disciplined for taking a bus on the road with a known serious defect and driving in a restricted lane.”
Prior to the settlement announcement, a trial to resolve the matter was underway. During the trial, NJ Transit argued that “Lewis was high at the time of the crash,” meaning he “showed willful misconduct and would have made the agency not liable.” However, Mazie presented evidence that pushed back against NJ Transit’s claims and argued “Lewis was not impaired and that the cocaine in his bloodstream was at least seven days old.”
J. Robert Berkstresser, a commercial bus consultant also chimed in on the incident and said:
“It is beyond the pale that an operator with such a poor safety record would be allowed to continue to be employed given the totality of these events. Despite the enormous amount of accidents, poor driving habits and safety violations NJ Transit retained Mr. Lewis as a bus operator. The failure on the part of NJ Transit to put a stop to the blatant unsafe performance of their operator Ronald Lewis indicated a general disregard for public safety.”
The settlement agreement was finalized and approved on September 6.