On October 9, 2013, a Greyhound bus carrying over 40 passengers rear-ended a slow moving tractor trailer on Interstate 80 in Union County at approximately 1:30 a.m. The bus was travelling from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio. Twenty-one passengers were injured in the accident, and one passenger died after she was thrown from the bus by the force of the impact. The victims were awarded a $15 million verdict after a number of passengers claimed that the bus driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the truck going 67 mph. Greyhound officials argued that the truck driver was traveling at 20 mph below the speed limit and failed to turn on the flashing warning lights when entering the highway. A three-judge Superior Court Panel upheld the verdict.
According to the Superior Court Panel, although witness testimony revealed that the truck driver admitted to being under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident, the statement was not admissible because the witness did not have personal knowledge of the driver’s drug consumption. He could not provide an accurate account of the truck driver’s condition at the time of the accident, nor did he have any additional evidence to support the claim.
Evidence of Drowsy Driving
The Superior Court awarded punitive damages based on driver fatigue, arguing that the bus driver was aware of her own level of fatigue, and that she was in danger of falling asleep at the wheel if she continued driving. The Court found that there was evidence that the bus driver knew that she was supposed to pull over to a rest stop or other safe location if she started to feel drowsy. One of the passengers observed the bus driver drinking a Red Bull as the passengers were boarding the bus, and that she appeared to nod off at various times during the trip.
The Court also rejected Greyhound’s argument that a mistrial should have been declared when a lawyer representing one of the passengers asked a witness if Greyhound had allocated $81 million to pay for claims related to the crash. This was significant because jurors already knew that Greyhound’s assets exceeded its liabilities by $647 million. In recent years, other verdicts were issued against Greyhound. In 2016, $27 million was awarded to a passenger who lost his leg in a bus accident. In another 2016 trial, four passengers were awarded $5 million in damages after a collision.
The Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. handle a wide range of legal matters, including cases involving serious injuries. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, and we represent clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.