Wheelchair passenger's claim against SMART is partially dismissed on appeal
SMART appealed to the Court of Appeals after the trial judge refused to grant it summary disposition of Dan Weiss's injury claim for the Estate of Catherine T. Reynolds. The decedent fractured her hip when she was thrown from her chair after the driver braked abruptly. While hospitalized and bed-ridden, she developed pneumonia and died. It was alleged that the driver was negligent in braking abruptly and in failing to properly secure Ms. Reynolds.
The Court held that while "sudden jerks and stops" are considered normal incidents of travel, the evidence presented a question upon which reasonable minds could disagree, with respect to whether the driver was negligent. In that situation, the trial judge properly left the case pending for the jury to decide. It probably gutted the impact of this ruling, however, by following the Republican Supreme Court majority's holding that family members cannot claim damages after a wrongful death: the statute allowing claims for "bodily injury" do not include claims for death of a loved one. Therefore, the victim's damages are limited to the woman's pain and suffering before she died and there is no compensation to her famiy for her death--even if it was caused by negligence.