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OCTA settles injury lawsuit

A day laborer who was run over by an Orange County Transportation Authority bus as he walked in a Crosswalk has agreed to settle his personal-injury lawsuit for $2.5 million.

Juan Carlos Delgado Arana, 29, was severely injured when he was knocked down and then crushed under the wheels of the bus shortly after 2 p.m. on July 2, 2004. He was walking to catch another OCTA bus to return to his home in south Santa Ana after visiting a friend when
he was struck.

Doctors amputated the middle three fingers on Arana’s left hand, leaving him with a lobster-style grip. He also suffered a crushed pelvis and a broken right ankle and internal injuries. Doctors were required to install metal plates and screws to allow his hip and hand to move.

Through an interpreter, Arana said Tuesday that he was still a little in shock that he had become a millionaire. But he said he would rather have his health back than the money. Arana, who worked side jobs in construction, roofing and landscaping, said he looked at his wounds after the accident and feared he would never be able to find a job again.

“I always liked to work” he said. “And now with the settlement I’m very happy because I will be able to support myself in a new business.” Arana added he also hopes to send money to help his mother in Nayarit, Mexico. “And I am happy that I will be able to help my brother and sister, who helped me the most when I needed help the most,”
he said.

The lawsuit was worth $2.5 million because of the severe nature of Arana’s injury and the negligence of the OCTA bus driver, said Gregory Patton, Arana’s lawyer. Patton said he was told it was the largest out-of-court settlement ever agreed to by OCTA. An OCTA lawyer did not return several phone calls Tuesday, but OCTA spokesperson Michael Litschi confirmed that the settlement has been approved.

The bus driver was watching the rear of the bus through a mirror as he made a right turn instead of the road in front of him. Patton said. The driver, who no longer works for OCTA, had been involved in a previous accident in Long Beach the year before when the rear of the bus smashed into a light pole as the bus made a turn.

Patton said the driver never saw Arana in the crosswalk and did not know that he had hit someone until another pedestrian yelled at him, “Stop! Stop! Stop! There’s someone under your bus.” Arana said he noticed the bus at a standstill before he entered the crosswalk at Harbor Boulevard and Fifth Street in Santa Ana when the green “walk” sign began flashing. He said he didn’t see the bus again until he was struck. “Bus drivers should be more concerned about pedestrians than in getting from point A to point B,” Patton said Tuesday. “This driver was about as careless as you can get.”

OCTA operates 600 buses, and provides 68.4 million passenger trips per year, or about 210,000 trips a day.