A Sacramento Superior Court jury awarded more than $2.4 million in damages Monday to the husband and son of a woman who was run over and killed nearly five years ago by a Sacramento Regional Transit bus.
The jury voted 9-3 that the bus struck Joyce Ann Jacobs while she was in a crosswalk at 6:25 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2008.
The outcome of the case hinged on whether the 49-year-old woman was inside the lines of the crosswalk when she was hit by the out-of-service bus making a left-hand turn from eastbound Q Street to northbound Eighth Street.
"I'm just so glad it turned out it was proven that she was in the crosswalk," said her husband, John Jacobs, a pastor at the New Covenant Ministries Worship Center at Fourth and Broadway.
Jurors awarded Jacobs $2 million in noneconomic damages for the loss of of his wife's love and consortium. It gave him another $381,789.11 in economic damages for her past and future financial support and household services. The jury awarded another $30,000 to the Jacobs' son, Anthony, for a total award of $2,411,789.11.
"Clearly we're happy that the Jacobs family got a verdict that establishes that their mother didn't do anything wrong," said plaintiffs' lawyer Steve Campora. "I'm disappointed a little bit with the jury's view of the relationship in the amount they awarded Anthony, but clearly the conduct of Joyce Jacobs was vindicated in the accusations made against her with regard to her negligence in crossing in the middle of the street."
Lead plaintiffs' lawyer Robert Buccola had asked the jury for $9.75 million, and the attorneys on the RT defense team seemed relieved after the verdict that the award was only about one-fourth of what the Jacobs family sought.
"We knew this was a tough case, but from the beginning, we felt there were some facts that shed some significant doubt whether she was in the crosswalk," said defense attorney Timothy S. Spangler, RT's in-house attorney. "As stewards of the public's money, we felt we needed to get those issues in front of the jury. With the 9-3 vote, it's obvious the jury struggled with some issues."
One juror who was interviewed after the verdicts were announced Monday said the deliberations were "quite a battle."
"Nobody agreed on the economic damages, the future damages, the past damages," said Carmelo Tirado, a supervisor with Honeywell International. "We had to go through each charge, go through the whole trial, see what was credible."
Tirado said RT's actions in the moments after the crash, especially on the part of the driver, swayed the panel to vote 9-3 against the transit agency.
"RT did drop the ball," Tirado said.
The single factor that led jurors to find the agency at fault was a decision by the bus driver to call RT instead of 911 in the first moments after the accident, Tirado said. As a result of the delay in calling 911, Sacramento police were not able to come across a "clean" scene when their investigators finally responded to the site of the accident, Tirado said.
"The cops should have been there to seal off the scene, so not everybody was trampling all over the place," he said. "Right then and there, we found against RT."
As for the damages, Tirado said the panel majority believed that "$9 million was just a little too much."