Mother seeks nearly $500K from RFTA over daughter’s death |

Mother seeks nearly $500K from RFTA over daughter’s death

Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The mother of a woman struck and killed by a public bus outside Aspen is seeking nearly $500,000 from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the driver of the vehicle.Attorneys for Joanne Borell, the mother of victim Joannie Kocab, filed court papers March 1 disclosing the damages they are seeking. Of that, $436,070 are for noneconomic damages, along with other costs, including $5,080 for Kocab’s funeral, a $1,159 monthly mortgage payment for her home and an underdetermined amount in lost income. In August, Borell filed a suit in Pitkin County District Court alleging that RFTA’s negligence was the “direct and proximate cause” of the death of her daughter, who was 29 years old at the time. Kocab was struck and killed by a public bus near Aspen early on the morning of Jan. 1, 2012.The suit remains in the discovery phase, which is when attorneys share evidence with one another.In December, RFTA attorney Hugh Wise filed a court statement offering $5,000 to settle the case. Because the plaintiffs did not respond within 14 days, the offer was rejected by the court, said Trenton Ongert, a Denver attorney who represents Borell. Ongert said mediation remains a possibility. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Wise filed a court brief indicating evidence that the defendants has turned over to Borell’s attorneys. Among the evidence are RFTA’s inspection reports for the bus involved in the accident, RFTA’s alcohol and drug policy and other records.A two-week resident of Basalt, Kocab – who was raised in Kansas and earned her master’s degree in museum studies at the University of Kansas in 2008 – was killed as she was walking in the eastbound bus lane of Highway 82, just west of the intersection at Owl Creek Road.On Feb. 15, 2012, the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office issued a report saying that Kocab’s blood-alcohol content at the time she died was 0.298 percent, more than three times Colorado’s legal threshold for driving under the influence.Borell’s suit, however, puts part of the blame on the driver and claims that RFTA “knew or had reason to know that defendant (driver Vijita) Evans was likely to use the bus in such a manner so as to create an unreasonable risk to others.” “Ms. Kocab was struck from behind by the commuter bus on Highway 82 at such a rate of speed that her head shattered the bus’s windshield upon impact, and her body was dragged for some time as the bus driver was unaware that she had hit someone,” said a statement from the law firm behind the suit, Bloch & Chapleau, at the time of its filing.No criminal charges were filed as a result of the accident.

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