Family of girl killed while riding her bike files claim against city

NOVATO, Calif.

The claim, filed by the San Francisco law firm Matiasic Roth & Johnson, alleges that Novato Boulevard where Hailey Ratliff was struck at about 3 p.m. on Sept. 27 constituted a dangerous condition of public property. The accident occurred west of Sutro Avenue.

The claim alleges that the city failed to trim overgrown roadside vegetation that obscured a pedestrian crossing and speed limit signs in the area.

Last week, Novato police said their investigation had determined that Ratliff failed to yield the right-of-way to a GMC Yukon headed east on Novato Boulevard.

Police Sgt. Jennifer Welch said this morning she could not comment on the complaint against the city. Novato City Attorney Jeffrey Walter did not immediately return phone calls this morning.

Police said their conclusion was based on witnesses' interviews, skid analysis, toxicology tests and advanced accident reconstruction tests.

The police investigation has been forwarded to the Marin County District Attorney's Office for review.

The Ratliff family's attorney, Paul Matiasic, alleged that the driver of the SUV, Samuel Lee Boulware Jr., a Texas resident, was speeding and inattentive when he collided with Ratliff, who was on her way home from Sinaloa Middle School.

"Boulware's negligence and the dangerous condition of the roadway were substantial factors in causing this collision," Matiasic said in a news release.

Boulware was in the area working for Tait Communications and PG&E at the time of the accident, Matiasic said.

He said residents in the area of the crash along that stretch of Novato Boulevard west of San Marin High School have raised concerns before and after the fatal collision about speeding motorists entering Novato from more rural stretches of the road west of city limits.

Matiasic said there is neither a stop sign nor a crosswalk connecting a nearby subdivision to the south side of Novato Boulevard, where there is a bikeway and dog park used by residents.

"What makes this accident even more tragic is that it could and should have been prevented," Matiasic said in a statement.

He said the Ratliff family was touched by the support they received from residents of Novato and nearby cities.

"It is their fervent hope that by filing this claim against the city, expeditious action will be taken and improvements made to ensure this type of tragic event does not happen again," Matiasic said.

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