Tenth District: Injured COTA Rider Must Get Chance to Prove Bus Jerk Was Unusual
A court must consider if a bus jerked more than the typical jostling that happens after picking up passengers to determine if a rider can hold the Central Ohio Transit Authority responsible for his dislocated shoulder.
The 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that a Franklin County Common Pleas court was too quick to side with COTA because Terrance Foster did not specifically say the bus he was riding took off in an “unusually sudden, forceful or violent” way.
Foster said he boarded a COTA bus in April 2011 and after paying his fare proceeded to the seats in the rear of the bus. The bus pulled away from the stop as he was walking down the aisle, and he fell forward, striking his head and dislocating his shoulder. He sued COTA for negligence and loss of consortium. COTA filed for and was granted summary judgment, claiming the driver was not negligent and that it was a rainy day, the bus floor was damp and that Foster did not use rails or seat backs to support himself as he looked for a seat.
Writing for the Court Judge Julia L. Dorrian pointed to Ohio’s long standing legal rules regarding negligence in “jerk cases” dating back to the prevalence of streetcars in the 1930s. The Ohio Supreme Court rule in Yager v. Marshall (1935) is that more than a mere occurrence of a jerk must take place, but “there must be evidence indicating a jerk is unusual in some respect such as in its suddenness, force or violence,” Judge Dorrian wrote.
COTA argued that Foster failed to present any evidence that the bus jerked unusually. The appeals court noted that in pretrial interrogatories, Foster testified that the bus moved suddenly and with a jerk that was different than the usual driver of that route. Because his responses indicated the bus moved in a way that Foster had not experienced before, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to what caused the injury.
“Reviewing the evidence, reasonable minds could come to different conclusions as to whether the movement of the bus was unusually sudden, forceful or violent and therefore, COTA was not entitled to summary judgment,” Judge Dorrian concluded.
Judges Susan Brown and William A. Klatt concurred in the decision.
Foster v. Cent. Ohio Transit Auth., 2014-Ohio-4362
Civil Appeal From: Franklin County
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: September 30, 2014
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