A judge has signed a final judgment awarding plaintiff David Morris $100,000 for injuries he sustained on a Dallas Area Rapid Transit bus.

Dallas lawyers Scott Keller and Hardin Ramey say 193rd District Judge Carl Ginsburg awarded their client the maximum damages allowed under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code §101.023(b), which caps state government liability for a single injury at $100,000.

In a July 7, 2011, amended petition, Morris alleged the following: In early 2010, he stepped onto a DART bus, swiped his bus pass and started to walk to his seat. But the bus driver “unexpectedly and abruptly took off,” causing Morris to fall and hurt himself. Morris was hospitalized and missed work, his lawyers say.

In Morris v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Morris alleged negligence, but DART claimed Morris was responsible. In denying the allegations, DART wrote in its Jan. 6 answer that it was performing a necessary governmental function and the Texas Transportation Code protected it from liability. Harold McKeever, senior assistant general counsel for DART, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Solo Keller and Ramey of The Ramey Firm say the damages cap meant they had to limit how much they spent on discovery in the case. They were able to locate another passenger who had seen their client fall on the bus, plus Morris was a very credible witness, they say. They also relied on a DART handbook that set out the rules for employees.

During closing argument, Ramey asked the jury to empathize with bus riders. “We asked the jury to look at the community who rides the buses and told them Dallas should be a safe place for all people,” says Ramey, who split the trial duties with Keller.

After a two-day trial and four hours of deliberations, the jury found DART 75 percent liable and Morris 25 percent liable. Ginsburg signed the final judgment on May 22.

Keller says he is “bothered” that the law limits the plaintiff to $100,000 in damages, but he notes, “That’s just what it is.”

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