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Disabled Man Awarded $6.4 Million in Wheel Chair Injury Case

November 05, 2010

Though Thomas Avery was a quadriplegic, he fought for his independence throughout his life. The active independent life that he had worked so hard to develop, despite being disabled, was taken from him when his wheelchair rolled backwards off a lift while being loaded into a city run paratransit bus. Avery suffered a severe brain injury after falling six feet head first, which took away the limited mobility he had in one arm, his short-term memory and his sense of smell and taste.

The jury rejected the attempt by attorneys for the City of Roseville, CA and MV Transportation, which operated the bus for the city, to characterize Mr. Avery’s quality of life as not having much value because he was a quadriplegic. This case is notable for two reasons that are important for the disabled. First, the jury rejected the notion that a person who is in a wheel chair or paralyzed does not have much quality of life. The judgment was also an acknowledgement of the high duty of care owed by those who provide public transportation to the disabled.

Avery sued the City of Roseville, CA which provided the paratransit service, as well as MV Transportation who operated the bus, claiming the negligence of both contributed to his injuries. The city was found to be partially responsible for the accident because in replacing a part on the wheelchair lift, the nuts and bolts were not tightened properly contributing to the accident. MV Transportation contributed to the accident because the driver parked on a slope and did not properly secure the wheelchair to the lift or inspect the lift prior to using it as is recommended by the manufacturer. The jury apportioned fault between the defendants with 83% of the fault being assigned to MV Transportation ($5.4 million) and 17% to the City of Roseville, ($1 million).

A public transportation provider has a very high duty of care to safely transport its passengers. The theory behind this heightened duty is that a person who uses public transportation has no way to protect oneself against negligence in the maintenance, design or operation. A bus or subway system is exclusively within the control of the operator. Where the person injured is in a wheelchair, this rationale is even stronger because someone who is disabled has little choice but to rely on public transportation officials for their safety.

A tragic accident involving catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries can have a devastating impact on one’s life. Despite his disability resulting from an earlier accident, Avery had gone back to college, held a job, volunteered with at-risk kids and lived a largely independent life with the assistance of a wheelchair. After the accident, Avery rarely leaves his home because when he does he forgets where he is going and why. While no amount of money can give Avery back what he has lost, the judgment will provide for medical cost and resources to help him to the extent possible with the quality of life.

If you or someone you love is injured by someone’s negligent conduct, Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, can help you as they have helped families throughout Georgia for over 39 years. Our personal injury attorneys, including our Georgia traumatic brain injury attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at No matter where you are in Georgia, we are just a phone call away and we will even come to you.

Category: Personal Injury

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.