October 8, 2013

Bicyclist hit by Maine bus awarded $750,000

Monica Semian, a student from Romania, was knocked off her bike and crushed by the rear wheels of the vehicle.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED — A Romanian college student who was run over by a school bus in Ogunquit in 2010 while she rode a bicycle has been awarded a $750,000 judgment.

Monica Semian was living in Wells with a group of Romanian students in 2010 when she was hit by a bus while riding a bike to work.

Courtesy

Monica Semian was struck by a school bus in Ogunquit in 2010 while riding a bike and run over by the rear wheels of the bus. She was awarded a $750,000 judgment last week after a five-day jury trial in York County Superior Court.

Courtesy photo

Monica Semian’s pelvis was crushed when she was knocked off her bike and run over by the rear wheels of the bus being operated by Ledgemere Transportation Inc. on the afternoon of Sept. 9, 2010, as the bus turned right from Main Street onto Berwick Road.

Semian, who was working in Maine that summer, filed her lawsuit in 2012 against the bus driver, Marcia Finley, and the bus company, which does contract work for the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District.

The lawsuit accused them of negligence and sought damages for her injuries, medical expenses and suffering.

After a five-day trial in York County Superior Court, a jury initially returned a $1 million award Friday before reducing it to $750,000 to account for Semian’s partial responsibility for the accident.

“I am very grateful to the jury,” Semian said in a statement issued through her attorneys. “I feel vindicated, and now I can finally pay my medical bills, which are more than $200,000.”

Semian is now 23 and living in Romania again. In 2010, she was living in Wells with a group of other Romanian students and working two summer jobs, at the Milestone Resort in Ogunquit and at an ice cream shop in downtown Ogunquit.

She was riding a borrowed bike from one job to the other when she was hit, according to court records.

“By returning a $1 million verdict and reducing it to $750,000 for Monica’s own responsibility, the jury showed they understood the case and wanted justice served in York County, even for an exchange student from Romania,” said Semian’s attorney Terry Garmey.

Garmey said the jury assigned one-quarter of the blame to Semian and the majority of the blame to the bus driver.

“It’s really unclear why Monica didn’t see a bus making a very bizarre turn,” Garmey said. “It has a turn signal on, and Monica didn’t see it.”

But Garmey said the driver of the full-size bus, which had school-age children aboard, admitted on the stand that she saw Semian as the bus passed the bike on Route 1 before the crash.

“The bus driver is distracted – we have a video of inside the bus – and the bus driver forgets about Monica, and confirms that she does so at the trial,” Garmey said.

Semian underwent three surgeries at Maine Medical Center in Portland and another at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, and continues to get therapy in Romania, Garmey said.

Ledgemere Transportation is still considering whether to appeal the judgment, said Lynette F. Viviani, a spokeswoman for the company.

“The matter in question dates back three years. The safety of our passengers, employees and the public is Ledgemere Transportation’s first and most important priority. We have safely served the school transportation needs of southern Maine for decades,” Viviani said in an email.

“Our insurance company is handling the matter and continues to consult with their defense counsel to weigh options for motions and, of course, their right to appeal.”

Stephen Wade, the attorney who represented Finley and the company, argued in filings to the court before the trial that Semian was an unskilled bike rider, using a borrowed 1970s vintage girl’s bike with no front brakes, and rear brakes that were functioning at only one-sixth of their normal braking capacity.

“The stage that sets up this accident is Ms. Semian, an inexperienced rider, riding up and down busy Route 1 that summer with brakes that barely work,” Wade said in his filing.

Wade argued that Semian told police while she was hospitalized that she tried to drag her feet in addition to braking, but still couldn’t stop in time to avoid the bus.

Semian’s attorneys said that while she bore partial responsibility, the bus driver’s negligence was the primary reason that Semian was run over.

Her other attorney, Gary Goldberg, said in a prepared statement, “It took a lot of courage for her to come back to the United States to testify and to see the bicycle she was riding when she was so badly hurt.”

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

Twitter: @scottddolan

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