http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2013/07/05/bike-crash-spurs-17-million-claim-against-city-of-palo-alto


Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 5, 2013

Bike crash spurs $17 million claim against City of Palo Alto

Family of 12-year-old boy hit by driver disputes road's safety

by Sue Dremann

The family of a 12-year-old boy who was struck by a vehicle while riding on the 2500 block of Park Boulevard has filed a $17 million claim against the City of Palo Alto for negligent design of the bike route on the road.

Sebastian Lerrick suffered a traumatic brain injury after being struck by a Nissan Quest driven by Luis Felipe Hau of Sunnyvale on Nov. 5, 2012, at 7:19 a.m., according to a police report. Attending paramedics found Lerrick with a leg and wrist fracture, a broken jaw, broken teeth and brain swelling.

The vehicle struck Lerrick from behind, breaking his bicycle frame in two and damaging the Nissan's front bumper, hood and windshield. Parts of Lerrick's bike and his school supplies were strewn across the road.

Hau told police the crash occurred as he was driving south on Park, through a construction area, on his way to East Palo Alto to pick up supplies for his employer, Izzy's Bagels. He said the sun was in his eyes, and that he was driving between 25 and 35 miles per hour. He did not see the bicyclist but heard the crash. He noticed his windshield was broken and immediately stopped to investigate, the report stated.

Lerrick, a Hoover Elementary School student, had been riding his bike south on Park but had left the bicycle lane to get around the construction, according to the report. Hau's Quest struck Lerrick as the boy veered back into the bike lane. The impact flipped Lerrick onto Hau's hood and windshield.

Lerrick was taken to Stanford Hospital in critical condition and was transferred to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital's pediatric intensive-care unit. He still suffers traumatic brain injuries, resulting in physical, cognitive, psychological and emotional issues, according to the family's claim.

A toxicology report of Hau's blood found that he had methamphetamine in his blood at the time of the collision, according to the police report.

Hau told police during questioning that he had a previous addiction to methamphetamine, but he had not taken any in a while. He gave police a blood sample. He said he had been in a bad car accident some time back, and he had been in a coma for a while.

Israel Rind, owner of Izzy's Bagels, said that Hau was off the clock when the accident occurred and was not driving for Izzy's. He said Izzy's has its own driver and its own company truck and would not send Hau for supplies or have an employee to use his own vehicle to pick up supplies. He suspected that a language barrier may have caused confusion when police interviewed Hau about the accident.

Palo Alto Police Agent Cindy Kono on Feb. 13 recommended that Hau be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and causing injury. Police also recommended that Hau be prosecuted on counts of driving at an unsafe speed, and driving with a suspended license and causing injury.

Cindy Hendrickson, Santa Clara County supervising deputy district attorney, said Hau has not yet been charged in the incident. The lengthy investigation into the crash is typical because investigators and the DA's office want to make sure nothing has been overlooked, she said.

"Before a final decision we meet with the family of the victim. An investigation followup Agent Kono did was completed in the last day or so," she said Wednesday. "We need to have those meetings with family before we can announce a decision."

The $17 million claim states that "a substantial factor that contributed to this incident is the City of Palo Alto's negligent design, construction, maintenance, signing, operation and control of the roadways."

Attorney Todd Emanuel filed the claim on April 19. If the city rejects the claim, the family can proceed to file a lawsuit.

George Ellard, who is representing Lerrick through Emanuel's law firm, did not return a call for comment. Hau could not be reached by the Weekly's press deadline.

Updates on this case will be posted on PaloAltoOnline.com as they become available.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by myhometoo, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 4, 2013 at 10:44 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

From the event described the driver was at fault for driving and not being able to see. This follows the pattern of a driver hitting something in front of him, it is that driver's fault - like a rear end collision. The driver was intoxicated and displayed bad judgement, hit and injured someone.

Hau, the driver's, insurance is liable here.

I can sympathize with the family of the injured boy looking for a way to pay for his injuries and care for the rest of his life - this is why I believe it is much fairer, and more sensible to have to a social safety net and a universal health care so that the future of victims like this does not ride on the gamble of a roll of the dice in the legal system ... on how good one's lawyer is, or how much money their family has, or whether they were injured in a construction zone that can be accused of being set up faulty. This could be or affect any of us ... and we ought to have a system that will care for all of those who are injured appropriately.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

This is a very unfortunate incident. Sadly, I am surprised it doesn't happen much more often, given how many people I see driving with their windshields fogged during the colder months. The city is being sued because of a "negligent design" of a bike route. I fail to see how any bike lane design that shares pavement with a road can protect a rider when the driver is driving "25-35" and can't clearly see where he is going.

Drivers -- do not proceed if your windshield is fogged. Ever. If you can't see where you are going because of sunshine/glare -- stop. Warm the engine and defrost the windshield.