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Teen wins lawsuit against NCTD

SAN MARCOS — A teenage girl hit by a North County Transit District bus in San Marcos won a lawsuit Dec. 9 she filed against the transit district relating to a brain injury she said resulted from the accident.
A Vista jury awarded Cecilia Ruiz $40,000 for the head injuries she suffered in connection to the April 26, 2006, incident in which she was struck by a slow moving transit bus after exiting the vehicle and then walking in front of it.
The speed of the bus was estimated to be between less than 1 mph and 7 mph, according to the attorneys on the case.
NCTD bus driver Barry McCown admitted he was at fault for the accident, court records state.
In the hours after the accident, Ruiz, then 15, was treated at an area hospital for a minor head injury and released, her attorney Michael Goldstein said in a phone interview.
Still, the monetary award is a far cry from the approximately $2.1 million Ruiz was seeking for her injuries.
Goldstein said he respects the jury’s judgment, but was “disappointed” with amount they rewarded his client.
The attorney said $1.4 million was for emotional stress and loss of enjoyment for life, while the other $700,000 centered on a life-care plan that provided future-care cost for medication and brain injury rehabilitation.
Going into the trial, Goldstein said he faced an uphill battle because a key piece of evidence, an imaging scan of Ruiz’s brain that showed an abnormality, was excluded from the case.
Despite being used for nearly two decades in the medical field, Goldstein said the court ruled the imaging technique known as Magnetoencephalography could not be admitted as evidence because it is still considered experimental.
Magnetoencephalography is a technique used to measure the magnetic fields in the brain produced by electrical activity.
Attorney Tracy Richmond, who represented McCown and the transit district, agreed that the motion to exclude the imaging scan was a key factor in the case.
Ultimately, he said the jury adopted the defense’s position that Ruiz had documented memory and learning issues prior to the accident.
“We didn’t cause her brain damages,” he said. “She has some tough life issues, but it’s not because this bus accident happened.”