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Family claimed bus's missing wheel guard caused death
San Francisco County
Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco
other-death; other-loss of society; other-multiple trauma
Wrongful Death; Motor Vehicle - Bus, Bicycle, Dangerous Condition
Guang Mei Qiu; Guoye Lai; Guo Fen Lai; Guolian Lai; Guozhen Lai; Guoxing Lai; Guohua Lai; and Guoyun Lai v. City and County of San Francisco; San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency; City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works; Melvin Maximilian Galvez Quinonez; and Does 1 to 100, No. CGC-14-540705
May 20, 2016
Guoye Lai (Male, 45 Years),
Guohua Lai (Male, 53 Years),
Guoyun Lai (Female, 52 Years),
Guo Fen Lai (Female, 50 Years),
Guolian Lai (Female, 47 Years),
Guoxing Lai (Male, 58 Years),
Guozhen Lai (Female, 40 Years),
Guang Mei Qiu (Female, 78 Years),
Estate of Cheng Jin Lai (Male, 78 Years)
B. Mark Fong; Minami Tamaki LLP; San Francisco, CA, for Guoye Lai, Guohua Lai, Guoyun Lai, Guo Fen Lai, Guolian Lai, Guoxing Lai, Guozhen Lai, Guang Mei Qiu, Estate of Cheng Jin Lai ■ Dale Minami; Minami Tamaki LLP; San Francisco, CA, for Guoye Lai, Guohua Lai, Guoyun Lai, Guo Fen Lai, Guolian Lai, Guoxing Lai, Guozhen Lai, Guang Mei Qiu, Estate of Cheng Jin Lai ■ Seema J. Bhatt; Minami Tamaki LLP; San Francisco, CA, for Guoye Lai, Guohua Lai, Guoyun Lai, Guo Fen Lai, Guolian Lai, Guoxing Lai, Guozhen Lai, Guang Mei Qiu, Estate of Cheng Jin Lai
V. Herbert; C.P.S.A.; Truck Industry Policy & Procedures; Quincy, CA called by: B. Mark Fong, Dale Minami, Seema J. Bhatt ■ Dale Dunlap; P.E.; Traffic; San Bernardino, CA called by: B. Mark Fong, Dale Minami, Seema J. Bhatt ■ Doug Shapiro; Bicycles; San Francisco, CA called by: B. Mark Fong, Dale Minami, Seema J. Bhatt ■ Eric Rossetter; Ph.D., P.E.; Accident Reconstruction; San Francisco, CA called by: B. Mark Fong, Dale Minami, Seema J. Bhatt ■ Mark Shattuck; Ph.D.; Biomechanical; Woodside, CA called by: B. Mark Fong, Dale Minami, Seema J. Bhatt ■ Paul Kayfetz; Visibility Studies; Bolinas, CA called by: B. Mark Fong, Dale Minami, Seema J. Bhatt ■ Lelandy Dong; Buses; San Francisco, CA called by: B. Mark Fong, Dale Minami, Seema J. Bhatt
City and County of San Francisco,
Melvin Maximiliano Galvez Quinonez,
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency,
City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works
Karen E. Kirby; Office of the City Attorney; San Francisco, CA, for City and County of San Francisco, Melvin Maximiliano Galvez Quinonez, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works
On Oct. 18, 2013, plaintiffs' decedent Cheng Jin Lai, 78, was riding his bicycle in the bicycle lane on 11th Street, in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco, when he entered the intersection with Division Street and was overtaken by a municipal bus operated by Melvin Galvez Quinonez. The bus then turned into Lai's path of travel in order to pull into the bus stop just past the intersection. As a result, the bus either struck Lai or came so close to him that it caused Lai to lose control and fall under the rear wheel of the bus. He was killed instantly. The decedent's wife and seven adult children sued Quinonez; Quinonez's employer, the city and county of San Francisco; and the believed owners of the bus, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works. The decedent's family alleged that Quinonez was negligent in the operation of the bus and that the remaining defendants were liable for Quinonez's actions. Plaintiffs' counsel asserted that Quinonez violated MUNI's policy that operators maintain at least 3 feet of clearance when passing vehicles and cyclists. In addition to showing that Quinonez failed to maintain proper clearance when it passed Lai, plaintiffs' counsel asserted that the bus was one of 14 in MUNI's fleet that was missing its "S-1 GARD" over the right rear wheel, which was the wheel that ran over and killed Lai. Counsel contended that the S-1 wheel guard works by pushing persons who fall under the bus away from the wheel, preventing them from being injured. Plaintiffs' counsel asserted that not only did MUNI's failure to inspect and maintain its fleet violate its policies and procedures, the S-1 GARD likely would have prevented Lai's death. (According to plaintiff's counsel, the claim regarding S-1 Guard caused MUNI to reevaluate its original position regarding fault and causation.) Defense counsel initially noted the police report stated that the decedent caused his own death by turning into the bus, and cited an eyewitness who said the decedent looked unstable on his bike. However, plaintiff's counsel noted that at depositions, the witness testified that it was the bus that turned into the decedent's path and "cut him off."
Cheng Jin Lai sustained multiple traumatic injuries and died at the scene. He was 78 years old. He was survived by his wife (Guang Mei Qiu, then 78); three adult sons (Guoye Lai, then 45; Guohua Lai, then 53; and Guoxing Lai, then 58); and four adult daughters (Guozhen Lai, then 40; Guolian Lai, then 47; Guo Fen Lai, then 50; and Guoyun Lai, then 52). Plaintiffs' counsel asserted that the decedent had to overcome great adversity in his life. Counsel contended that, to escape persecution during the Sino-Vietnamese war, the decedent led his family on foot from Vietnam to China, pushing his youngest children in a wheelbarrow. After years working as a factory manager in China, the decedent immigrated with his wife to the United States in 1996 to live with their children. Although retired and living in low-income housing, the decedent remained the patriarch of his family, plaintiff's counsel contended. Counsel further contended that, tragically, the decedent's dream of reuniting his entire family in America was never realized, as the last of his children, Guozhen Lai, Guohua Lai and Guoxing Lai arrived in the U.S. six months after he was killed. In addition, plaintiffs' counsel contended that the decedent was a lifelong cyclist, and was in excellent health at the time of his death.
The parties agreed to a $3.25 million settlement, which was finalized via the guidance of mediator Harris Weinberg. The settlement was paid by the city and county of San Francisco on behalf of itself and the other defendants.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.