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Jury awards woman hit by T bus $3.9m

Plaintiff lost leg in '05 accident

RITA TRAYBMAN RITA TRAYBMAN
By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / December 2, 2008
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A Boston woman who lost her right leg after she was struck by an MBTA bus three years ago was awarded at least $3.9 million in a civil suit yesterday, a judgment her lawyer said could be the largest of its kind in state history.

Rita Traybman could receive $5.4 million once interest in the judgment is paid, her attorney, Marc L. Breakstone of Breakstone, White & Gluck said yesterday. A Suffolk Superior Court jury reached the verdict yesterday after two days of deliberations. The trial began Nov. 12.

"This verdict will help Ms. Traybman cope with the terrible injuries she sustained," Breakstone said in a statement. "She will be able to obtain appropriate housing and medical care for her lifelong disability."

Traybman, who was 58 when the accident occurred, spoke at a news conference yesterday at Breakstone's office and said she was happy with the verdict and relieved the case is over.

She was crossing the intersection of Washington and East Newton streets in the South End at about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2005 - a clear, sunny day, her lawyer said - when she was struck by an MBTA bus.

According to Breakstone, Traybman was in a crosswalk traversing the street with the walk signal on, and she had the right of way when she was hit from behind. Breakstone said his client had crossed that intersection countless times - she lives a block away - and was familiar with the traffic.

The driver, Lancelot Blake, and the MBTA were responsible, Breakstone said, because MBTA policies and Massachusetts law state Traybman had the right of way and the driver should have stopped.

"The key to the trial was the fact that state law required the driver to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. MBTA policies required the driver to yield. And judging by that standard, the driver came up short," Breakstone said.

Blake was cited and fined for violating a pedestrian crosswalk.

MBTA spokeswoman Lydia Rivera released a statement yesterday saying, "The MBTA is reviewing the results of the trial and legal rulings carefully and is considering filing post-trial motions and an appeal, as appropriate." She could not say whether Blake is still working for the MBTA.

Reached at his home last night, Blake would not comment on the case and would not say whether he is still working for the MBTA.

Breakstone said that his client, who is now 61, continues to suffer from her injuries. Her leg was amputated but she continues to have what is known as phantom limb pain, in which her brain still recognizes the pain from the lost leg.

A Ukraine immigrant who became a US citizen, she has no children and was the caretaker for her mother when the accident occurred. She is dependent on others for care now.

"Her injury was horrendous, and the extent of her permanent pain and suffering are also a lifetime of significant suffering," Breakstone said. "Is she happy today? No. Is she satisfied with her verdict? Yes."

Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.

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