The widower and the daughter of a woman fatally struck by a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus on Valentine's Day in 2007 have settled a suit with the agency for $2.3 million.
Gregory Schoenburn and Kimberly Pifer initially sought $50 million in a suit filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against WMATA. The case was settled after mediation by Magistrate Judge John Facciola.
Speaking at a press conference, Schoenburn says the agreement brings some closure, but he’s still unhappy with the “system” and “culture” that led to his wife’s death.
“I don’t like blood money,” he said. “My struggle with them has just begun now. ... I’m going to be in their rear-view mirror constantly, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that these things don’t happen, and people don’t go through what I’ve been through. I’ve been through hell.”
Martha Schoenburn, an executive assistant to then-Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, and her colleague, Sally Dean McGhee, were crossing Pennsylvania Avenue NW at the 7th Street intersection when a WMATA bus, driven by Victor Kolako, ran them over. Both died soon after. Kolako pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide in September and is serving a one-year sentence.
A separate suit filed by McGhee's family in the District Court seeks $20 million from WMATA. It is scheduled for trial in October.
As a result of the accident, WMATA agreed to mandate annual safety training for its more than 2,400 Metrobus drivers. In addition, the agency established a "Street Smart" program to familiarize drivers and supervisors with pedestrian movements and behavior. The city also added a left-turn-only lane and arrow at the intersection, which had been the site of several pedestrian accidents over the years.
"Hopefully, the resolution of this particular case will make people realize that the ounce of prevention costs a fraction of the pound of cure," says Peter Grenier, who along with partner Michael Hibey of Bode & Grenier represented the Schoenburn family.