On Sept. 14, 2003, plaintiff Ramon S. Melendez, a 61-year-old construction worker, was visiting a friend who lived on a narrow residential street in Southgate. Melendez claimed he was there to help his friend get his car started, which included replacing the alternator. During the several hours he was there, the men had had lunch and, later, an afternoon snack. They also had some beers. At about 6:30 p.m., Melendez claimed that he climbed into his pick-up truck, which was parked in the driveway, put on his seatbelt, and proceeded to back slowly out of the driveway. However, his vision was obstructed by vehicles parked adjacent to the driveway, and when his car was halfway into the street, a city bus came along and struck the rear passenger side, causing the bus to spin 270 degrees.
After the impact, the bus continued out of control, going another 60 feet and up onto the curb on the other side of the street before the operator was able to stop it using the emergency hand brake.
At trial, Melendez’s counsel showed the portion of the footage where the bus driver was knocked out of her seat on impact. He argued that the driver would not have been knocked out of her seat if her foot were on the brakes, and that therefore the skid marks had to be pre-impact.
The jury reached a plaintiff’s verdict on liability, but found Melendez 50% contributorily negligent. The jury awarded Melendez $11,907,000, for a net award of $5,953,500.