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Charla AldousDan Ambrose

Charla Aldous · Dan Ambrose

$20,000,000.00 Wrongful Death Verdict Against Greyhound

TLU Icon September 4, 2024 5:30 PM||Zoom Logo

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On June 29, 2017, Plaintiffs’ adult son Hunter Brown, 25-years-old, was riding a Greyhound bus in the middle of the night from Oregon to California looking for a fresh start. He had struggled most of his teenage and adult life with drug addiction and was hoping California, with its abundant rehabilitation programs, would help him forge a path toward recovery. At some point a few hours after the bus trip began, the driver stopped at a retail rest stop in Central Point, Oregon for what was supposed to be a 30-minute meal stop. However, the driver ended up cutting the stop down to about 15 minutes and leaving 4 minutes before he told passengers they had to be back on the bus. To make matters worse, the driver never even bothered doing a required head count of passengers to ensure everyone was on the bus prior to departing. Hunter was inside waiting to pay for his food when he saw the bus slowing pulling out of the parking lot and leaving without him. Hunter left his food and ran toward the bus, yelling at the driver to stop and pounding on the side of it. Despite the driver seeing him do so and the passengers pleading for the driver to stop, he kept driving. As the bus turned out of the parking lot, the front wheel caught Hunter’s foot pulling him directly under the bus and killing him.

The case dealt with the following issues:

  1. The autopsy revealed that Hunter had opiates (Heroine) in his system at the time of death. Defense’s toxicologist argued that the amount of heroine in his system was enough to make Hunter intoxicated and make irrational decisions like chasing after a moving bus. Additionally, law enforcement officers found 3 spent needles in his bag with a lighter and a spoon.
  2. Hunter was the only passenger that was not able to make it on the bus by the time the bus left. There was some suspicion and implication by the Defendants that the reason he was last in line to get his food is because he may have been using drugs in the bathroom during the stop.
  3. Our client was transient and had a complicated relationship with his parents. While his parents loved him unconditionally and tried to help him get sober numerous times, there were large periods of his adult life where they did not see him or hear from him. There were other times when his parents kicked him out of the house themselves because of his drug use. Since we had no economic damages we could claim in this case, our only damages were tied to our clients’ loss of relationship with their son.
  4. Our survival damage evidence was extremely limited. One of the experts calculated that it would have taken Hunter 1.4 seconds to die after his foot got caught in the wheel. Our only argument was that he experienced pain for that 1 second and had enough time to suffer mental anguish from fear of his impending death. A very slim argument to support survival damages under Texas law.
  5. Most of the witnesses were impossible to find for a number of reasons. For one, many Greyhound passengers are transients themselves and did not write any addresses or phone numbers down for the investigating officer. Two, even through discovery, it was impossible to find information on them because they do not have IDs and commonly pay in cash. Three, if we were lucky enough to find some of the witnesses, they were well outside of subpoena range and did not want to participate in the case. We were able to find and depose 3 or 4 witnesses after hiring private investigators to find them.
  6. The Defendant driver was fired shortly after this incident due to an unrelated incident and Greyhound no longer controlled him. While we were able to take his videotaped deposition, he was outside of subpoena range and we were unable to get him to show up for trial. This was a huge blow to us because of how unlikeable he was. Thankfully, Charla did a great job in her deposition of capturing that but it still would have been better for a jury to see him in person.
  7. Greyhound had a very likeable corporate representative.

Despite the above issues, the jury awarded $20,000,000.00 made up of $8,500,000.00 to each parent and $3,000,000.00 for Hunter’s survival damages. The jury placed 90% liability on Greyhound and 10% contributory liability on Hunter.

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