San Jose Attorney Paul Caputo Honored for his Landmark Case

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Leading San Jose attorney Paul Caputo has been selected as a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a group recognized as the most prestigious group of Trial Laywers in the country. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Caputo's successful case, Borja v. Valley Transportation Agency (VTA), is seen as a huge victory for disabled wheelchair occupants and has transportation agencies across the country reexamining their current policies regarding passenger securement and safety.

– Paul Caputo has been certified as a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a national organization recognized as the most prestigious group of Trial Lawyers in the country. Caputo was recognized for his relentless work and successful outcome on behalf of a permanently disabled woman who had to sue the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to get fair compensation lifetime medical care as a result of VTA's negligence.

Membership to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Caputo’s case, Borja v. Valley Transportation Agency (VTA), Case number 1-01-CV-802902, is seen as a huge victory for disabled wheelchair occupants. The jury verdict to award his client $2.165 million left transportation agencies across the country reexamining their current policies regarding passenger securement and safety. VTA dropped all appeals earlier this year.

Caputo represented Maria Borja, a former Court Clerk and Santa Clara County's Volunteer of the Year. Borja, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has never let that stop her from living life and doing right by others. On October 27, 2000, after taking a class for disabled students at Evergreen College, Borja left campus to board city bus #77. Scooter-bound at the time, Borja says she asked the driver for help strapping herself in, but claims she was refused. Moment’s later, Borja’s scooter tipped over when the bus took a sharp turn. She suffered a non-operable torn rotator cuff injury, a broken shoulder joint and several head lacerations.    

At first, it appeared to be another tragic, yet all too typical, case of “he said/she said” (or in this instance, “she said/she said”) – the driver contending Borja never requested assistance; but neither Borja nor Caputo would let that deter them from making their case heard. In a highly unusual move, Caputo decided to attack what he believes is the true culprit, the recklessness of the defendant’s wheelchair securement policy, rather than the individual driver’s actions-in-question. A policy, Caputo argued, which lead directly to the plaintiff sustaining major injuries that required a lifetime of care. “I don’t blame the hardworking employees of the VTA, but rather the policy that was implemented by decision makers. VTA was hiding behind a flawed and dangerous policy. I believe the jury saw that,” said Caputo.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, transit agencies have two choices when it comes to establishing their wheelchair securement policies. And depending on the agency, the terminology will differ; however, it essentially boils down to a matter of “system choice” versus “passenger choice”. And all but a few of the nation’s major cities have a policy of “system choice” in place. In simplest terms, a policy of “system choice” means that the transit agency may deny service to wheelchair occupants who refuse to cooperate with the drivers’ efforts to secure their chairs. Securement is necessary to ride. Alternatively, “passenger choice” states that disabled passengers have the right to refuse securement.

Currently, New York City, Chicago and San Jose are among the few cities with a policy of “passenger choice” still in effect. In the Borja case, Caputo went after the source of the problem. According to Caputo, the true culprit was a widespread national public policy that effectively insulated transit agencies from liability, by recklessly exposing disabled passengers to substantial risk.

About Paul Caputo

Since 1989, Caputo has either tried or handled cases as a personal injury lawyer in 23 counties, mainly encompassing cities within the Bay Area and Northern California. His cases have encompassed matters involving Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Toxic Exposure, Products Liability, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Insurance, Employment, Business and Contracts.

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