A woman who was run over and pinned by an Alexandria DASH bus last year has been awarded $4.5 million in damages by an Alexandria circuit court jury, which learned that the driver had been in four other accidents in the previous 18 months but was allowed to stay behind the wheel.
Sherry Galloway, now 55, was on her way to work as a corporate relations assistant for the National Society of Black Engineers in August 2014 when she stepped into a crosswalk just outside the King Street Metro station. After Galloway had nearly completed the crosswalk, a DASH bus driven by Seblewongel Z. D’Arcy, 52, turned left off King Street and hit Galloway in the back, according to her lawyer, Joseph Cammarata.
Galloway was pulled under the front left wheel of the 17,000-pound bus and pinned there for about a minute, Cammarata alleged, until D’Arcy backed the bus off her. Galloway, of District Heights, survived but suffered numerous permanent injuries to her legs and head, including ”degloving” the skin and tissue from her leg muscles. She cannot sit for long and will not work again, court documents show.
The accident was captured on video by the camera on D’Arcy’s bus and also by other buses in the intersection, and was shown to the jury, Cammarata said. He declined to release the video.
But D’Arcy’s driving record should have disqualified her from being in the King Street intersection with Galloway on Aug. 6, 2014, Cammarata said. Beginning in February 2013, when she was still in training, “she had a series of preventable accidents” in DASH buses, Cammarata said, including one near Southern Towers on Seminary Road where her bus crashed broadside into another vehicle.
“This is reckless disregard for the public at large,” Cammarata said. He noted that Alexandria Transit Company, which operates DASH, was “a public entity,” a nonprofit corporation owned by Alexandria City. “There must not be a lot of oversight. This cannot be the right way to treat the public.”
D’Arcy said in a brief phone interview that she did not feel she was at fault but declined to comment further. Cammarata did not allow Galloway to be interviewed.
David J. Fudala, the attorney for Alexandria Transit Company, did not return messages seeking comment. Alexandria Transit officials declined to answer questions about the case but issued a statement extending its sympathy to Galloway. The statement said the company “strives to provide safe and reliable bus service to Alexandria’s residents, workers and visitors. . . . ATC will continue to use the industry’s best safety practices so that we minimize the possibility of accidents involving pedestrians or other vehicles.”
Multimillion-dollar jury verdicts in civil cases are infrequent in Northern Virginia. The jury’s award to Galloway is subject to post-trial motions to vacate or reduce, and possible appeals.
Video from D’Arcy’s bus showed that the driver was not looking forward and did not stop before entering the intersection, Cammarata said. Tests conducted on the bus showed that it sped up from 4.5 miles per hour to 9 miles per hour when it struck Galloway, her lawyer said.
“If the bus had entered the intersection at 4.5 miles per hour,” Cammarata said, “they would have missed each other. This was not a responsible driver at all.” He said D’Arcy has since resigned from Alexandria Transit.
DASH is Alexandria’s city-owned internal bus service to supplement Metrobus. Records showed D’Arcy started training to be a DASH driver in December 2012, and that she had her first accident in February 2013, veering out of her lane and striking a car. Cammarata said D’Arcy’s trainer testified he was fearful riding with her back then.
But because D’Arcy was still in training then, that crash did not count against her record, Alexandria Transit officials testified. In July 2013, as a full-fledged driver, records show she struck a parked car. In March 2014, her bus had a T-bone collision with a car near Southern Towers. In May 2014, she side-swiped a pedestrian with the bus.
Cammarata said Alexandria Transit classified all four incidents as preventable. D’Arcy received a written warning for the first one after training, a three-day suspension for the second one and a five-day suspension for the third incident.
“They consistently faulted her for failure to pay full time and attention,” Cammarata said, “but they continued to let her operate the bus for accident number five.”
A string of doctors testified to the severity of Galloway’s injuries, to include permanent partial impairment and numbness in her right leg, chronic pain and the need for more surgeries.
Cammarata presented evidence of about $1.7 million in past and future damages and lost wages. Circuit Judge Lisa B. Kemler did not allow for punitive damages against the transit company. On Sept. 18, the jury found for Galloway on all three negligence counts, and awarded almost $3 million for Galloway’s pain and suffering. A joint statewide transit insurance fund will cover the award if it is upheld on appeal, Cammarata said.