A District of Columbia Superior Court jury today returned a $4,320,000 verdict against WMATA in favor of local pastry chef Joshua Short. Mr. Short was struck by a WMATA bus on Christmas night in 2015. He was walking home at 6:00 p.m. from his job as executive pastry chef at the Hay Adams Hotel when he was stuck while crossing 16th Street, N.W. The bus was turning left heading towards the White House when it knocked Mr. Short twenty feet down the road. WMATA’s attorney told the jury that Mr. Short was responsible for the accident because he was crossing outside the crosswalk.
Critical evidence in the case came from cameras mounted on the bus which captured the impact. WMATA had only recently installed cameras on its buses.
The jury watched video from two cameras showing Mr. Short being hit by the bus. One camera looking over the driver’s head through the windshield showed Mr. Short walking into view, being hit by the front of the bus, and rolling off to the ground to the right of the turning bus. The driver is seen throwing her hands to her head and braking the bus to a stop. The driver testified she was looking off to the left and never saw Mr. Short. A WMATA investigation concluded that the driver failed to pay full time and attention when making the turn, and the bus was traveling 15 miles per hour at the time of impact, much higher than WMATA standards.
Mr. Short was heading home to Columbia Heights for Christmas dinner with a dozen members of his family. Mr. Short testified that he was walking in the crosswalk with a walk signal when he saw bright lights heading towards him. He tried to turn out of the way when he was hit. The impact sent Mr. Short rolling over to the pavement where he braced his fall with his left hand. He suffered an impact fracture of his left wrist.
Despite multiple surgeries since the accident, Mr. Short continued to experience pain as he worked on his pastry creations. Mr. Short testified that the pain forced him to leave the Hay Adams’ position, a job he loved, for a position at a small local club. The jury seemed to be entertained by Mr. Short’s testimony of how he loved to make pastries for famous people at the Hay Adams, remembering he once made delicacies for Barbara Streisand’s dog.
A surgeon testified that Mr. Short will eventually require a fusion of the wrist, ending his career as a pastry chef. Mr. Short tearfully told the jury he won’t know what to do if he can’t continue to work as a pastry chef.
Adam M. Linkner from Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of Mr. Short’s attorneys, told the jury, “Mr. Short’s job is his passion, which cannot be replaced.” Mr. Short told the jury that he started making pastries in high school in his hometown of Fairbury, Nebraska. Later, he left home to earn a culinary degree from the prestigious New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. Mr. Short testified that he then worked as a pastry chef at several high end restaurants in Las Vegas, including the Five Diamond Bellagio Hotel and Casino, before coming to Washington, D.C., in 2002. Before taking the position at the Hay Adams Hotel in 2010, Mr. Short explained that he worked as the executive pastry chef for eight other Washington, D.C., restaurants. He testified that he was nominated four times as pastry chef of the year by the local Restaurant Association, performed at James Beard House Dinners, and was asked to bake for the White House.
J. Michael Hannon, a local attorney also representing Mr. Short in the trial, reports that the $4.3 million jury verdict is the largest in over ten years in a vehicle case and the fourth largest verdict in all personal injury cases tried in the Superior Court.