By Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News Service
The family of a 24-year-old woman who was fatally struck by a truck while riding her bicycle in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood in 2013 was awarded $4 million by a San Francisco Superior Court jury on Jan. 15.
A San Francisco jury found the driver of the big-rig truck, Gilberto Alcantar, negligent for striking and killing Amelie Le Moullac, who graduated from Menlo School in Atherton in 2007 and the University of Southern California in 2011. She lived in San Francisco and worked at the San Francisco office of the marketing firm Voce Communications.
Micha Liberty, the attorney for the Le Moullac family, said legislation can be created to ensure this doesn't happen again. She urged lawmakers to require commercial drivers be trained to drive on streets shared with bicyclists.
"No amount of money is going to compensate for the loss of life of this remarkable young woman," Ms. Liberty said.
Ms. Le Moullac was killed during her morning commute on Aug. 14, 2013, when a truck made a right turn and struck her at the corner of Sixth and Folsom streets.
On Jan. 15, the trial of a wrongful death suit filed by the Le Moullac family against Milpitas-based Daylight Foods Inc., the produce company employing the driver, concluded with a jury verdict in favor of Denis Le Moullac, the father of Amelie Le Moullac.
Judge Newton J. Lam presided over the trial.
Ms. Liberty said $3 million was awarded to Amelie Le Moullac's mother and $1 million was awarded to her father.
Following the collision, the driver was not initially cited. However, a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition member found surveillance video of the crash and turned it over to investigators leading the driver later to be found at fault and cited.
The SF Bicycle Coalition released a statement following Le Moullac's death: "These tragic crashes are not accidents. With thoughtful engineering of our streets, data-driven enforcement of the most dangerous behaviors, meaningful education and through investigation and prosecution, we can reduce and eventually eliminate all traffic fatalities."
The SF Bicycle Coalition said it was "deeply troubling" that charges were not filed by the District Attorney's Office.
The bicycle advocacy group called on city leaders to fund the San Francisco District Attorney's proposed Vehicular Manslaughter Unit, which would have consisted of a prosecutor, an investigator and a paralegal.
The San Francisco District Attorney's Office proposed a specialized Vehicular Manslaughter Unit in last year's budget, but it was not included in San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's budget, according to San Francisco district attorney's spokesman Max Szabo.
Ms. Liberty said the Le Moullac family was "saddened by the fact that there were no criminal charges brought against Mr. Alcantar" by the District Attorney's Office.
She said the lawsuit filed by the family was a final attempt at justice. According to Ms. Liberty, the defense attorney denied his client's responsibility for the collision.
Ms. Liberty suggested that a commercial license and training be required for anyone operating large trucks. She said Mr. Alcantar was not required to have a commercial license because he was driving a truck that weighed less than 26,000 pounds, and according to the California Department of Motor Vehicle's regulations, anyone with a regular Class C driver's license can drive such a truck just as they can drive a 3,000-pound Toyota Prius.
However, if the truck weighs above 26,000 pounds, then a commercial license is required. The California DMV website states, "it takes special skills and a professional attitude to safely operate large trucks and buses" and that commercial drivers are tested on how to safely drive at night, how to handle "offtracking," which is a long commercial vehicle's tendency to swing wide on turns, and how to deal with a commercial vehicle's large blind spots.
Following Ms. Le Moullac's death, the San Francisco Police Department was criticized for how it handled the investigation and for apparently derisive remarks that a police sergeant made aimed toward bicyclists at a memorial event a week after Ms. Le Moullac died.
San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr apologized numerous times on behalf of the sergeant in the weeks after the fatal crash and said the incident would be reviewed by the city's Office of Citizen Complaints, which handles reports of police misconduct.