Caltrans and several companies are facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed today by lawyers representing the family of a man who was killed when his big rig toppled over the side of the Bay Bridge in November 2009.
Hayward resident Tahir Fakhar, 56, was killed after losing control of his truck, which was carrying a load of pears, as it traveled west on the bridge’s S-curve early on the morning of Nov. 9, 2009.
Fakhar’s truck veered out of his lane, scraped along a 3-foot guardrail, and then rolled over the side of the barrier, falling about 200 feet to Yerba Buena Island below.
The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court today on behalf of Fakhar’s wife and two children, alleges that the S-curve designed by Caltrans served as “a concealed trap for motorists” crossing the Bay Bridge.
The suit also targets various companies that inspected, loaded and transported the pears, which were bound for a market in South San Francisco. The complaint alleges that the container on Fakhar’s truck was “dangerously overloaded and thereby susceptible to a catastrophic loss of control in a sharp curve.”
The crash was one of dozens that occurred along the curvy stretch of the bridge in the weeks after it was added during Labor Day weekend in 2009 as part of a replacement project for the bridge’s eastern span.
Since Fakhar’s death, Caltrans has added additional speed warnings, flashing radar signs, a higher roadside barrier along the curve, rumble strips and clearer lane striping.
R. Lewis Van Blois, the attorney representing the victim’s family, said there were 43 documented crashes at the S-curve prior to Fakhar’s death and “virtually none after,” which he said shows that Caltrans inadequately designed and regulated the detour.
“We feel the cause of the accident is the design of the curve and the failure to warn motorists accurately that they had to slow down significantly to be able to negotiate the curve,” Van Blois said.
Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said he was not able to comment on pending litigation, but Caltrans officials said on the day of Fakhar’s death that his excessive speed, rather than the S-curve design, was the cause of the crash.
Investigators with the California Highway Patrol estimated that Fakhar was traveling 50 mph at the time of the crash. The speed limit drops to 40 mph on the S-curve with a maximum speed of 35 mph recommended on the sharpest curves.
Van Blois said the timeline of when the case will move forward is uncertain.
“It’s a complex case, and complex cases can take as long as two years to get a trial date, but we intend to move it as quickly as we can,” he said.
The family is seeking damages that include income loss, loss of future earnings, and funeral and burial expenses.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News