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Tourist's pothole encounter results in $450,000 settlement, seat cushions

If you have plans to ride one of Philadelphia's tourist buses this year, you can thank a lawsuit filed by a frail Hungarian-born visitor for a safer, more comfortable ride.

Agnes Matyekne, 63, was severely injured on Sept. 5, 2011 when the PHLASH bus on which she was riding hit "a large and obvious" pothole at 9th and Market Streets.  Matyekne was violently thrown up into the air and landed on a hard wooden bench. The impact broke the Brooklyn resident's back, fracturing one of her lower vertebrae and left her with nerve damage. Matyekne, a Hungarian-immigrant, was left in agonizing pain.

Matyekne filed suit in Mar. 2012 against the bus owner, 76 Carriage Company, Inc. claiming the accident had caused injuries requiring complicated back surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation.

Last week, she settled with the company for $450,000. In addition, the suit prompted the bus company outfit its vehicle seats with cushions, according to Matyekne's attorney, Robert Braker, of the Saltz, Mongeluzzi law firm.

The 76 Carriage Company did not immediately return calls requesting comment.

According to Braker, during the trial the PHLASH driver testified that he knew the intersection at 9th and Market was dangerous. He also admitted from the witness stand that he had failed to slow down or avoid the pothole that sent Matyekne flying. Later, he expressed remorse and apologized to Matyekne.

"It's a shame that it took this lawsuit to finally compel the defendant to install seat cushions to injury prevention on their vehicles," Braker said in a statement. "[I]t is also very satisfying to know that by fighting for Mrs. Matyekne, 76 Carriage Company has made everyone's future rides on these vehicles safer."