Erin Ferguson was elated on a early December morning in 2016 as she walked to get her nails painted in preparation for a job she said she was set to start in four days. She had nearly made it through an east side crosswalk when she was struck by a Petaluma Transit bus, ending up at the hospital that day instead of the salon.
“It has totally impacted my life … I just remember hearing the bus and I think I turned, I’m not real sure. I don’t remember anything else and then I was underneath the bus and someone was talking to me,” said Ferguson, a 47-year-old Petaluma resident. “I didn’t know what happened, I couldn’t move to crawl from under the bus,”
An investigation by Petaluma Police revealed that the 77-year-old driver was at fault, and should have yielded to Ferguson as she walked in the crosswalk of North McDowell Boulevard and East Madison Street in the Dec. 1, 2016 incident, Lt. Tim Lyons said. In 2017, Ferguson sued Petaluma, the bus driver and MV Transportation, the company the city contracts with to operate its bus and paratransit system, ultimately resulting in a $775,000 settlement last month, according to court documents. The city was dismissed in the case, and the Texas-based transportation company handled the payout.
Petaluma has contracted with MV Transportation to operate the city’s bus line since 2000, and its paratransit line since 2011, Transit Manager Jared Hall said. The current contract will expire June 30, and the city’s transit advisory committee April 5 recommended that the city council approve a $13.3 million contract for the company to operate for another seven years in the city. Funding would come largely from county, state and federal sources.
The base contract is for $7.3 million for the first four years, with the option for the city to choose to extend the contract annually for three more years at an estimated cost of about $2 million a year, according to a staff report.
The 2016 incident forever changed Ferguson’s life, she said. Her left arm was broken in five different places and she now has a plate that stretches from her shoulder almost to her elbow that’s held in place by 11 screws, she said. Ferguson said she’s been out of work because a pinched nerve in her arm causes pain when she’s sitting at a desk, and she’s been attending extensive physical therapy until about two months ago. The former bookkeeper said she plans to go back to Santa Rosa Junior College to refresh her accounting skills before attempting to reenter the workforce.
“There’s pain, but I’m pretty much used to it now,” said Ferguson, who had relied on Petaluma buses for transportation prior to the event. “It’s there, but I try to look on the bright side of things – it’s going to be there, so there’s not much I can do about it. It’s limited my abilities quite a bit – I can’t play sports with my son. It used to be baseball and now I can’t even do badminton.”
MV Transportation’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Womack declined to comment on the lawsuit or to provide details about the 77-year-old employee, other than to say she is no longer with the company.
Concord-based attorney Steven Disharoon who represented MV Transportation in the proceedings did not return a call for comment.