Woman wins multi-million dollar lawsuit after being hit by DASH driver with unsafe record

DASH operator accident records. (WJLA photo)

The Alexandria Transit Company has been ordered to pay a multi-million dollar judgment in a lawsuit brought by a District Heights woman who was struck by one of the agency's DASH buses and claims the driver at fault had an unsafe driving record. Sherry Galloway sued ATC in 2014, claiming the agency was negligent, not only for the accident but for failing to adequately discipline or suspend Seblewongel Zelalem D'Arcy, of Arlington, who was behind the wheel at the time of the crash.

Galloway was struck in August 2014 while walking in a crosswalk on King Street in Alexandria near the King Street Metro station. Court filings say she was badly injured, requiring multiple surgeries. Galloway was struck by a bus driven by D'Arcy and pinned underneath. The incident was captured on video. DC-based attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represents Galloway, says, "It's stunning, horrifying and breathtaking."

The lawsuit claimed ATC breached its duty by keeping D'Arcy on staff despite multiple accidents on her record. The filing claims she had at least three preventable accidents in a span of 13-months leading up to the crash involving Galloway. She also had an accident in training according to records obtained by the 7 On Your Side I-team, with trainers expressing in reports that they were "scared" by her driving.

"One after another, they just excused her behavior and put her back behind the wheel and now we have a more significant tragedy," Cammarata said.

Records show discipline letters were given to D'Arcy on at least three different occasions including October 2013, April 2014 and May 2014 following what ATC considered "preventable accidents". Court filings indicate video of three accidents involving D'Arcy was included among evidence in the case.

But the 7 On Your Side I-Team found it is standard practice for drivers with accidents to potentially continue driving. Procedure manuals obtained by ABC7 show drivers with Alexandria Transit can have as many as four preventable accidents before being dismissed.

Galloway was awarded $4.5 million by a jury last month. Cammarata says, "The jury recognized this was an unfit, unsafe driver that should not have been put behind the wheel."

ATC is appealing the decision and a hearing is scheduled for later this month in Alexandria Circuit Court. 7 On Your Side obtained operating reports which show ATC experienced 28 preventable accidents in fiscal 2015. ATC reports 97 accidents total in that same time frame.

The Alexandria Transit Company sent the following statement to ABC7 News:

"The Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) extends its deepest sympathy to Sherry Galloway for the injuries that she sustained in this unfortunate accident," DASH wrote in an official statement Wednesday. "As a public transit agency, ATC strives to provide safe and reliable bus service to Alexandria's residents, workers, and visitors. Our organization, from senior management to bus operators, will remain constantly vigilant in providing safe and effective public transportation. ATC will continue to use the industry's best safety practices so that we minimize the possibility of accidents involving pedestrians or other vehicles. At this time, ATC is awaiting the court's decision on the motion to set aside the verdict, which will be heard on October 28, 2015."

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