By Adam Lynn
The News Tribune
TACOMA—A former Pierce Transit bus driver injured on the job when attacked by hooligans contends the agency and its insurance company are improperly withholding disability payments he’s due.
John Grocott sued Pierce Transit and the Lincoln Financial Corp. this month in Pierce County Superior County, claiming breach of contract. He seeks a $50,000 payment under the “assault insurance” provision of the drivers’ union contract and benefits under its long-term disability clause. He also has asked that any damage award be tripled and that his attorney’s fees be reimbursed.
Representatives from Pierce Transit and Lincoln Financial declined to comment, citing their respective policies against talking about pending litigation.
Grocott was hurt in February 2011, according to his lawsuit.
He was driving a Pierce Transit bus in Lakewood when he “noticed young adult males carrying beer and shouting obscenities,” his lawsuit says. Grocott pulled over and asked the men to get off the bus.
“The young men approached Grocott, making verbal threats and struck him on the side of the head, knocking him unconscious,” the lawsuit states. “When plaintiff Grocott came to, one of the young men was dumping beer on him and shouting obscenities.”
One of them was arrested and charged with assault.
Grocott suffered a “partial mental disability” as a result of the attack, according to his suit, which was filed on his behalf by Tacoma attorney Michael McAleenan. He is no longer working.
Grocott twice made claims to Pierce Transit seeking payments under the assault insurance provision and the long-term disability clause, but the agency has not paid him, his lawsuit states. Pierce Transit told him Lincoln Financial was responsible for the long-term disability claim.
In a letter to McAleenan in June 2013, Pierce Transit senior claims administrator Paul Visaya said, “There are issues regarding eligibility and legal standing that need to be worked through to reach a disposition of your client’s claim.”
McAleenan said a letter he sent to Lincoln Financial in June went unanswered until recently. A lawyer from the company contacted him this month to say Lincoln Financial never processed the original claim because it was lost when an employee designated to handle it left employment, McAleenan said.
“They now appear to be taking the steps necessary to address my client’s claim,” McAleenan said.
The company remains part of the lawsuit for now.