The family of Tamara Mabini, a Reston woman struck and killed by a bus near her home in 2002, was handed a $2 million verdict by a Fairfax County jury in January 2004. But earlier this year, the Virginia Supreme Court erased the verdict.
The high court ruled that the Mabini family's expert witness overstated their financial losses and shouldn't have been allowed to testify. During the second trial this week, another expert was called to the stand, and he gave a more conservative estimate. The result: The jury awarded the family more than $3.5 million.
Mabini, 52, was married and the mother of two adult children, one of whom had special needs and lived with her. On the afternoon of Jan. 29, 2002, she was walking to her clerical job near the Reston Town Center, crossing Reston Parkway in the crosswalk near Temporary Road.
A Fairfax Connector bus driven by Rogelio Vasquez hit her from behind and killed her as it turned onto the parkway from Temporary Road.
"To this day, it's fresh in my mind," said Paul Mabini, Tamara's husband. He said he visits her grave every day.
Mabini sued Vasquez and the bus owner, First Transit Inc. of Cincinnati. First Transit, contracted by Fairfax to run its Connector service, operates civic bus systems throughout the country, including the DC Circulator and buses in Prince William, Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties.
For the first trial, Mabini's attorneys hired Richard B. Edelman, a former finance professor at American University, to calculate her family's financial losses. He determined that the family's economic loss, if Mabini worked until age 66, was more than $550,000.
After the jury awarded Mabini $2 million, First Transit and Vasquez appealed. They argued that Edelman's testimony overstated Mabini's personal worth, because she had no full-time job or fringe benefits and her son had died. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered a second trial only on the issue of damages.
Court records show that a different financial consultant, Thomas Borzilleri, reached a more conservative estimate of the family's financial losses, about $450,000. Mabini's attorneys argued that he used "competent contemporary statistics" to represent the value of "services provided by a homemaker" in the Washington area, beginning with a rate of $10.41 an hour.
The seven-person Fairfax Circuit Court civil jury was instructed that Mabini had a life expectancy of 29 more years. After a two-day trial, the jury deliberated for an hour and 13 minutes Wednesday before awarding $1.75 million to Paul Mabini, $1.75 million to Tamara Mabini's daughter, Lisa Matthews, and $25,872 for funeral and medical expenses. The award is not subject to caps or reductions under Virginia law.
Four of the jurors did not return phone messages yesterday seeking comment.
Vasquez, 50, who lives in Herndon, also did not return a phone message yesterday. He was found guilty in Fairfax General District Court of failure to yield to a pedestrian. He appealed and lost, records show. He was fined $100.
First Transit officials and their attorney in the case, Francis J. Prior, did not return calls yesterday.
Thomas K. Plofchan Jr., the Mabinis' attorney, said "the family is very thrilled with the verdict." But Paul Mabini was cautious, having seen one jury award vacated.
"I'm weary and I'm wary," he said. The couple had been married nine years, Mabini said, "and our only regret was that we didn't meet earlier. She was a very wonderful woman."