SFMTA settles lawsuit over fatal Muni crash

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has agreed to a $3.25 million settlement involving a Muni bus colliding with and killing a bicyclist near 11th and Bryant streets in 2013.

On Tuesday, the transit agency’s Board of Directors approved the settlement at its regular meeting during the closed session.

Cheng Jin Lai, 78, was on his bicycle when a 27-Bryant bus hit Lai and crushed him to death with its back right tire on Oct. 18, 2013.

Lai was on his way to drop off his family’s recycling when a Muni bus allegedly cut him off, according to attorney Mark Fong with Minami Tamaki LLP, who represents Lai’s wife Guang Mei Qui in the lawsuit filed in July 2014.

Fong said in a statement to SFBay that Lai was the patriarch of the family of seven children who led his family on foot from Vietnam to China during the war. Fong said Lai was a lifelong cyclist.

In addition, reports surfaced at the time from SF Weekly’s Joe Eskenazi that the bus was missing a “S-1 Gard” bumper mounted in front and back of Muni bus wheels to prevent people from getting rolled over. This prompted the SFMTA to inspect all of its buses.

The missing bumper was also cited in the lawsuit, claiming the transit agency negligently put a Muni bus on the streets that was not safe despite the transit agency’s policy that all buses have this gard on at all times and no bus should not operate without them.

The City’s Department of Public Works was also included as part of the lawsuit, which alleged the department was at fault for the dangerous intersection at 11th Street near Bryant and Division streets:

“Defendants negligently failed to inspect, maintain, control and/or repair the subject roadway, lanes and intersection for motorists, bicyclist, and pedestrians in this area, so a to create this dangerous condition which caused and contributed to the death of the Decedent.”

The intersection where Lai was hit and killed was part of the first 30 Vision Zero projects completed in 24 months since The City adopted the goal of having zero traffic deaths by 2024. Improvements made in the intersection included signal timing changes, additional bicycle guidance approaching the intersection and establishing a parking-protected bike lane.

Qui and the family sought damages for the wrongful death of Lai and funeral and burial expenses.

Fong said:

“Our hope is the settlement of $3.25 million to Mr. Lai’s family will help bring them comfort for the husband and father they lost.”