New Trial Ordered in|Crash That Killed Six

     FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – Citing “the weight of the evidence,” a California judge vacated a March jury verdict that found Greyhound Lines not at fault for a bus crash that killed six people in 2010.
     Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black on June 3 ordered a new trial after determining that “the weight of the evidence supports a finding of negligence on the part of the bus driver.”
     The Greyhound bus ran into an overturned SUV on Highway 99 in the early morning of July 22, 2010 and then struck a second vehicle. The crash killed the three occupants of the SUV: Sylvia Garay, 18, of Dinuba; Vanessa Gonzales, 19; and Stephanie Cordoba, 20, both of Fresno.
     Also killed were the bus driver, 57-year-old James Jewett, and two passengers – Epifania Solis, 60, of Madera, and Tomas Ponce, 79, of Winton.
     The families of Garay, Gonzales and Cordoba sued Greyhound for negligence. During the five-week trial, they argued that Jewett was speeding, was not wearing his glasses, and made an unsafe lane change.
     The jury, tasked only with determining whether Greyhound was negligent, deliberated for three hours before answering “ no ” without further explanation.
     Judge Black wrote that “the evidence does not support the verdict.”
     “(T)here was strong evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony which would support a finding that the bus was travelling in excess of the speed limit shortly before its impact with the stranded SUV occupied by plaintiffs’ decedent,” Black wrote in the 10-page ruling.
     Three witnesses testified that they saw the bus going 70 mph to 80 mph shortly before impact, in a 65 mph zone, the judge said.
     Evidence also suggested that Jewett was not wearing his glasses at the time of the crash, Black said: a coroner’s report stated the glasses were in the driver’s pocket and had not flown off his face at impact, as Greyhound argued.
     Witnesses testified that they saw Jewett without his glasses on during the trip, and an optometrist said that the damage to the glasses was not consistent with the glasses being worn at the time of the impact, the judge said.
     “Evaluating all the evidence on the issue, the court finds the driver was not wearing his glasses at and immediately before the impact,” Black wrote.
     Although it is undisputed that Jewett was “confronted with an unexpected object in the roadway,” Black said he “cannot find on this record that the driver was not negligent or that he did not, at least in part, cause the emergency.”
     Greyhound attorney Dana Fox told Courthouse News, “Greyhound is extremely disappointed that after a jury heard five weeks of evidence, and decided by a vote of 10-2 in less than two hours that Greyhound was not negligent, that the court would disregard the jury’s hard work and its finding. Greyhound is now evaluating its options regarding an appeal of the court’s decision.”
     Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return a request for comment.

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