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$7.5 Million Record-Setting Settlement for Pedestrian Injured by CTA Bus

03.27.1998

In the largest individual settlement ever made in Chicago Transit Authority history, a nationally recognized musician and former lead oboist for the Chicago Lyric Opera has been awarded $7.5 million for career-ending injuries she received when she was struck by a CTA bus while crossing a Chicago street in November of 1994. Gladys C. Elliot, who also was principal oboist for the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, was crossing Clark Street at Grand Avenue when the bus hit her, throwing her 20 feet. Landing on her head, Elliot received severe head injuries and remained in a coma for 15 days after the accident.

As a result of the accident, Elliot's left side, including her left hand, arm, and leg, was paralyzed, leaving her unable to even hold the oboe she had played professionally for more than 40 years. Today Elliot, who also became deaf in her left ear from the accident, suffers from a seizure disorder and diminished mental capacity. She is unable to walk or stand unassisted and requires full-time, skilled nursing-home care.

Francis Patrick Murphy of Chicago's Corboy & Demetrio represented Elliot in a negligence action against the CTA and the driver of the bus.

The 1994 accident occurred when the CTA bus driver, being re-routed because of a nearby marathon race, was instructed to turn south onto Clark Street from westbound Grand Avenue. The driver, who proceeded to do so from the far right lane of Grand, says he was focused on checking his rear-view mirror to make sure there was no traffic approaching from behind on Grand and failed to see Elliot crossing Clark in front of the bus before it hit her. The 67-year-old Elliot had been with the Chicago Lyric Opera for 30 years. Before that, she had become one of the first women in the country to play for a large metropolitan orchestra when she joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1951. Maestro Bruno Bartoletti, the Lyric Opera's artistic director, recruited Elliot from Dallas.

Calling her "one of the best oboists in the country," Bartoletti has said that while "many musicians are not dedicated to the job, opera was Gladys' life. Everybody loved Gladys," he added. "They all understood that she came just to play her instrument in opera." Both Bartoletti and Mitch Miller, who also had conducted Elliot and called her one of the country's top oboists, testified in depositions that she could have continued playing the oboe for at least five more years.

With a normal life expectancy, Elliot will lose almost a quarter of her independent and professional life because of the injury, Murphy points out. "The 'new' quarter of her life is directly caused by the CTA bus operator's failure to make the most basic of bus movements--a legal turn," he adds.

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