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Island Transit sued over death

The estate of a woman who died in 2011 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Transit.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Island County Superior Court, claims that former Whidbey resident Joan Biondi was injured when she was a rider of a paratransit bus and alleges that the injury contributed to her death less than three weeks later.

The lawsuit comes just as Island Transit is facing serious public relations problems because unforeseen financial difficulties forced officials to lay off employees and cut routes.

Attorney Chris Crew of Elma filed the lawsuit on behalf of the relatives of Biondi, who died on Sept. 15, 2011.

The lawsuit states that Biondi, who was with her granddaughter, sought paratransit transportation to Whidbey General Hospital for medication refills on Aug. 26, 2011. Island Transit offers curb-to-curb paratransit service for registered, eligible persons of disability who are unable to use the regular bus service.

The paratransit driver picked up Biondi and her granddaughter for the return trip. The driver strapped the wheelchair into the restraints but neglected to also strap Biondi into restraints, the lawsuit alleges.

The driver slammed on the brakes on the way to her home, allegedly causing Biondi to catapult from her wheelchair, hit her head on a seat and land hard on her knees, the complaint states.

The granddaughter reportedly helped Biondi back into her chair.

Biondi refused ambulatory service because she had just returned from the hospital, the lawsuit states.

The driver said he would have to report the incident to his supervisors, but allegedly neglected to do so, the lawsuit said.

The day after the incident, Biondi’s knees swelled and became painful. Her granddaughter called 911 for help and an ambulance crew responded. Biondi suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, but survived, the complaint states.

While recovering in the hospital, Biondi learned that her kneecap was shattered, the complaint states. She died shortly after  being released from the hospital.

Biondi’s granddaughter “believes that (Biondi) lost the will to live after the paratransit indent and resulting injuries,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit alleges both wrongful death and negligence as causes of action. It alleges that Island Transit and its employee breached its duty to take reasonable care to prevent injury to its paratransit occupants.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the added stress and anxiety from Biondi’s injuries could have caused the onset of cardiac arrest, “which ultimately led to her untimely death.”

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