Jury orders PBC to pay woman $500,000 for fall on Palm Tran bus


A 26-year-old West Palm Beach-area woman was awarded nearly $500,000 by a jury last week for knee and back injuries she suffered when a Palm Tran bus driver hit the gas before she had a chance to sit down, sending her sprawling.

But despite the Palm Beach County jury’s decision, Ruth Arizpe will only be able to recover $200,000 from the county-run bus system unless the Florida Legislature agrees she deserves more. Under the state’s sovereign immunity laws, that is the most governments can be forced to pay for wrongdoing unless state lawmakers pass what is known as a claims bill, lifting the cap.

Attorney William Johnson, who represented Arizpe, said she has already racked up $45,000 in medical bills and faces tens of thousands of dollars for surgery she needs to repair her knee and a disk in her back that were damaged during the February 2015 fall on a bus’s rain-soaked floor. She works as a retail clerk and doesn’t have health insurance, he said.

She faces an uphill battle to get the Legislature to agree to let the county pay the full amount the jury said she deserves, he said. In recent years, the GOP-led legislature have been loathe to approve claims bills.

“At the end of the day, who knows what this client is going to get?” he said.

During the roughly four-day trial, Assistant County Attorney Sara Lindsey argued that the bus driver had a schedule to meet, Johnson said. Waiting for passengers to sit down would cause delays. Johnson countered that safety should come first.

Siding with Johnson, the jury found the county negligent. It awarded Arizpe $869,000 - more than half for medical expenses and the rest for pain and suffering. But jurors also found that she was 45 percent responsible for her own injuries. That cut the award nearly in half, to $478,000.

Lindsey wasn’t immediately available to comment on the verdict or whether the county would appeal.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Delray Beach residents homeless after fire
Delray Beach residents homeless after fire

Residents of a Delray Beach duplex are without a place to live after a fire swept through one side of their building in the 200 block of Southwest Fourth Avenue Sunday afternoon. “Heavy flames” were shooting from one of the units when firefighters arrived shortly before 3 p.m., according to Capt. Kevin Saxton of Delray Beach Fire Rescue...
One person hurt in Acreage helicopter crash
One person hurt in Acreage helicopter crash

One person was injured after a small helicopter crashed in the Acreage, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said Sunday. The crash happened near Royal Ascot Estates, Fire Rescue officials said shortly before 4 p.m. The pilot was taken to a hospital for treatment. He was flying a “small experimental helicopter that had crashed while taking off from...
Boy with 10-pound tumor on face dies after surgery in Florida
Boy with 10-pound tumor on face dies after surgery in Florida

A 14-year-old boy who recently underwent surgery to remove a 10-pound tumor from his face has died, according to news reports. Emanuel Zayas developed the benign tumor while suffering from polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, a genetic disorder in which fibrous tissue begins to replace bone in the body. “Our condolences and prayers for Emanuel's family...
Jupiter Island sees rare armed robbery
Jupiter Island sees rare armed robbery

Jupiter Island, that tony strip of mansions that counts Tiger Woods and billionaire John Malone among its homeowners, experienced a rare violent crime this weekend. The Jupiter Island Public Safety Department said two young men wearing masks and “armed with an undetermined type handgun” robbed a Jupiter Island residence early Saturday....
Florida man dead after diving in underwater caves
Florida man dead after diving in underwater caves

A 50-year-old Florida man is dead after cave diving in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park this weekend, officials said. Davin Brannon, 53, of Dover, was diving in the Eagle’s Nest cave around noon Saturday when Hernando County Sheriff officials were called about a diver in distress. By the time crews arrived at the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management...
More Stories