225,000 Jury Verdict for CTA Passenger Who Fall on Wet Bus Floor – Pflanz v. Chicago Transit Authority

Personal injury lawsuits like Heather Pflanz v. Chicago Transit Authority, et al. 08 L 4878, remind us that injuries can result from the activities we engage in on a daily basis. The plaintiff in the Chicago lawsuit fell after boarding a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus, injuring her leg so badly that she need surgery. And while the Chicago jury found the plaintiff to be partially responsible for her own injuries, it found that the bulk of the blame lay with the bus driver.

The incident occurred after 37 year-old Heather Pflanz boarded a northbound CTA bus near State Street and Maple Street. Pflanz boarded the bus and was looking through her purse to find her Chicago Card to pay the bus fare. However, the bus reportedly pulled away from the curb suddenly, causing Pflanz to lose her balance and fall forward.

As a result of her slip and fall injury, Pflanz fractured her right tibia/fibula in her lower leg. The severity of the break meant that Pflanz needed to undergo surgery and have nails and screws installed in her leg for additional support. Although Pflanz has recovered, she continues to have ongoing swelling, pain, and stiffness in her right ankle. In addition, Pflanz has since been diagnosed with patellar tendinosis in her right knee and may require additional surgery to fix her kneecap’s tendon.

Pflanz filed a personal injury lawsuit against the CTA, in which she stated that the bus driver violated the CTA’s Standard Operating Procedure by failing to allow her to pay her fare before moving the bus. In addition, Pflanz was critical of the bus driver for failing to warn her that the floor was wet. It was raining when Pflanz boarded the bus and the floor was reportedly wet and slippery. According to Pflanz, the wet floor was responsible for her foot slipping as the bus pulled away from the curb.

In order to support the plaintiff’s claims, her attorney, Matthew Rundio, produced a bus operations expert who confirmed that the CTA bus driver should have warned Pflanz about the wet and slippery floors when she boarded the bus. In addition, another bus passenger testified in the CTA lawsuit that the bus floor was “exceedingly” wet at the time of Pflanz’s injury.

However, the same bus passenger testified that all CTA buses lurch forward whenever they leave a stop. This testimony tended to support the CTA’s claims that Pflanz’s injuries could have been prevented if she had been holding onto one of the bus’s poles as the bus pulled away. The CTA’s counsel pointed out that there was a pole located less than 12 inches away from where Pflanz was standing. The CTA argued that it was not the bus moving forward that caused Pflanz’s fall, but rather that she was not bracing herself by holding onto the pole. The CTA presented evidence showing that its Standard Operating Procedures do not require the bus driver to wait for a passenger to pay his/her fare prior to moving the bus forward.

And while both parties presented ample evidence to support their theories of liability, there was one piece of evidence that was missing. The plaintiff’s counsel, Matthew Rundio, had filed the personal injury lawsuit within a month of the bus accident. During that time, Rundio had also filed a protective order that sought to preserve the surveillance film from the bus. And while a portion of that film was preserved and produced, there was another portion that was destroyed by the CTA despite the protective order.

However, despite the lack of a complete surveillance video, the jury still sided with the plaintiff. In response to a special interrogatory question submitted to the jury, i.e. whether the plaintiff’s failure to hold onto a safety rail was the sole proximate cause of her injuries, the jury answered “no.” And while the verdict was reduced by 25 percent for what the jury found to be Pflanz’s negligence in her own fall, the plaintiff was still awarded $255,333. The bus accident verdict was made up of the following damages:
• $120,000 past and future pain and suffering;
• $100,000 loss of normal life;
• $70,444 for past medical expenses; and
• $10,000 for future medical expenses.

Kreisman Law Offices has been representing individuals and families injured in Illinois pedestrian accidents for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Chicago’s Rogers Park, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Joliet, Markham, Bridgeview, Maywood, Orland Park, and Mundelein.

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