RFTA goes to trial with passenger in small-claims court
ASPEN – A county judge said Wednesday that she will decide within the next two weeks whether the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority should compensate a woman who alleges that a bus driver’s negligence led to her broken elbow.
Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely listened to nearly one hour of testimony Wednesday in Pitkin County Small Claims Court.
Plaintiff Melanie Roschko is suing RFTA for $7,500 – the maximum amount in damages allowed in small-claims cases. Her gripe with RFTA stems from a bus ride she and her husband, Myron, took on Feb. 7, 2011.
Melanie Roschko claimed that when her husband pulled the bus cord on the Highlands ski bus, the couple intended for the bus to drop them off at Aspen Street and Cooper Avenue. The driver kept driving, prompting Melanie Roschko to tell him to stop.
Driver Omar Merlos eventually did stop. But Melanie Roschko testified that Merlos slammed the brakes, and the jolt sent her to the floor of the bus – she was standing up at the time – and she injured herself.
Merlos, however, contended he never slammed the brakes. RFTA’s claims adjuster and risk manager also testified during the trial, saying they determined that the driver was not negligent and wasn’t even required to stop at Aspen and Cooper. His first required stop, they said, was on Main Street.
Meanwhile, Melanie Roschko said she visited several physicians and ultimately learned that she had fractured her elbow. She said she has undergone numerous physical-therapy sessions and medical treatment, all to the tune of $14,693. But the couple have paid only $818.29 out of pocket because of insurance coverage.
Even so, Myron Roschko, a licensed attorney who was not acting in his capacity as a lawyer at the trial, told the judge the amount they are seeking is fair and appropriate, given what Melanie Roschko has had to endure.
RFTA officials, for their part, said they considered the Roschkos’ claim for some type of compensation but denied it for a number of reasons. Among their reasons, they said, was that Melanie Roschko walked off the bus at the time of the miscue and didn’t complain to the driver. RFTA officials also said they weren’t presented with medical bills, though Myron Roschko said he felt it was best to wait and present all of the bills at once to RFTA rather than do it piecemeal.
The Roschkos are longtime part-time residents and currently spend several months a year in Snowmass Village. Their permanent home is in the Los Angeles area.
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