A Northern California City and the West Coast Company that operates MetroAccess in the Washington region have been ordered to pay $6.4 million to Thomas Avery, a quadraplegic man who was severely brain injured after his wheelchair was dropped off of the back of a transit bus.
Thomas Avery was being lifted into the back of a paratransit bus in 2008 when his wheelchair rolled off the platform and fell 6 feet to the ground. Avery landed on his head, which resulted in severe brain damage. According to the Roger Dryer, Avery’s attorney, the bus operator failed to inspect the lift used to raise wheelchairs onto the bus. If he had looked, he argued, the bus operator would’ve noticed that there were missing bolts and loose pins. In addition, Avery was not properly fastened into the lift before operation. A Placer County, California jury ordered MV Transportation to pay 83% and the City of Roseville, California to pay 17%.
A spokeswoman for the city recently stated that Roseville admits some responsibility for the incident. Prior to the accident, Avery stated that he did his best to lead a normal life, despite his disability, including returning to college, volunteering with at-risk children, and doing most of his daily activities by himself. Now the 40-year-old rarely leaves his home, and when he does he often forgets where he’s going.
Avery was considered an incomplete quadraplegic before the accident, since he was paralyzed in his legs and had limited mobility in only one of his arms, which resulted from a 1989 vehicle collision. However, the fall from the transit bus resulted in a dislocated shoulder, loss of mobility in that arm because of intense pain, as well as a loss of memory and personality, and a loss of taste and smell. He hopes to use part of his award to buy a specially equipped van so that he won’t have to rely so heavily on public transportation.