Family of trucker sues Caltrans over S-curve

October 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Drivers have complained it's dangerous, and now Caltrans will have to defend its design of a section of the Bay Bridge called the "S-curve." Tuesday, a family attorney will file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of a driver who plunged to his death off the bridge.

There haven't been any major accidents or deaths since that tragic day last year, and that is what the plaintiffs will argue. Only after the death of Tahir Fakar, did Caltrans adequately warn drivers about the dangerous S-curve.

On Fakar's first and last trip through the Bay Bridge S-curve on Nov. 9 of last year, his truck, loaded with pears, flipped over a three-foot wall and plunged 200 feet to the ground. Now Fakar's family is filing a wrongful death suit accusing Caltrans of negligence in the design of the S-curve.

"A driver would not expect this S-curve on a normal bridge that is a straight bridge," says Lewis Van Blois, the victim's family attorney.

At the time, the CHP ruled that Fakar was traveling over the 40 mph speed limit.

"Right now it appears this was a tragic accident that could have been prevented had that driver followed the laws, the rules of the road," said Assistant CHP Chief Bridget Lott on Nov. 9, 2009.

There were speed limit and warning signs, but after Fakar's death, Caltrans added more signs, flashing lights, and rumble strips.

"It's clear that they realized that their warnings were inadequate," says Van Blois.

The lawsuit points to 43 crashes in the S-curve during the month before the accident, including an 18-wheeler that was going too fast and flipped over.

"I cannot imagine any bridge engineer that would approve putting such a curve inside," says UC Berkeley structural engineer professor Hassan Asteneh.

Asteneh has been an outspoken critic of the design.

"It is a requirement that if you have a bridge, especially an existing bridge, you never, never put a curve in the middle of the bridge," says Asteneh.

But ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says suing the state will not be easy.

"The government is generally not liable for defective design construction and the government in general is not liable for injuries that are caused by its failure to produce a street sign or a warning or a traffic signal," says Johnson.

Caltrans may have immunity, but the family is also suing a list of others that include the design firm and at least four other parties involved in the delivery of the pairs that they say exceeded the legal weight limit by about 8,000 pounds.

The attorney for the family will hold a press conference on Tuesday morning.


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