muni_generic.jpgWhen 23-year-old Emily Dunn was fatally struck by a Muni bus driving an unapproved route, her grieving father asked the kind of questions we all do in cases like this: “Why did a bus driver have to come up a street he shouldn’t drive up?” and “How do you prevent that from happening?” Perhaps more cynically, commenters and pundits asked questions like “how much is Muni going to have to pay for this snafu?”

While it’s impossible to put a dollar value on a human life, it looks like her family and the city of San Francisco is getting ready to try: as the Ex reports, Dunn’s family is planning to file a civil claim this week against the city for her death.

At 2:30 PM on August 19, Dunn was crossing 18th and Hartford St. She was almost through the intersection when a shuttle bus meant to provide supplementary service for the F-Market line hit her as it was making a left turn onto Hartford St.

Dunn, an Atlanta native, had only been living in SF for a month when the fatal accident occurred. She’d recently taken a job with Superfly, the event production company that puts on Outside Lands as well as other festivals, after volunteering for the company for several years. Dunn had also recently graduated in May with honors from Washington University in St. Louis.

According to SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose, the accident is still under investigation and the Muni driver, who’d only been working with the agency since January, remains on non-driving status.

Michael Kelly, a lawyer representing the Dunns, tells the Ex that her family plans on submitting a claim this week, the first step one takes in suing the city.

“The City Attorney’s Office considers a claim and decides whether to accept it” explains the Ex, and will “make a settlement, or issue a denial, which can lead toward litigation in court.”

A denial will be a tough sell, as Muni has admitted to some errors leading up to Dunn’s death. Rose has made statements to media indicating that the Muni driver broke Muni policy and chose his own route, either due to poor instructions from Central Control or on his own volition.

“Our policy is to operate buses on streets that have regular assigned service. Hartford does not have scheduled service, and our policy is it should not operate on streets like that,” Rose told Streetsblog.

“They (bus drivers) are supposed to be given a route when they are asked to switch,” Rose told the Chron.

The SFMTA pays a $2.4 million annual premium for catastrophic insurance coverage that covers claims from $5 to $25 million. Lesser payments must come from its already-strained operating budget.

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the author

Always in motion. April Siese writes about music, takes photos at shows, and even helps put them on behind the scenes as a stagehand. She's written everything from hard news to beauty features, as well as fiction and poetry. She most definitely likes pie.

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  • GGxGG

    I’m not saying the bus driver wasn’t at fault for not watching for pedestrians, but what on earth does whether or not the bus was on an “approved” route have to do with it? Buses drive on city streets. Sometimes they get re-routed. Drivers should *always* be driving safely — there is no higher or lower standard of care based on whether they were on the street their route typically follows.

  • GGxGG

    I’m not saying the bus driver wasn’t at fault for not watching for pedestrians, but what on earth does whether or not the bus was on an “approved” route have to do with it? Buses drive on city streets. Sometimes they get re-routed. Drivers should *always* be driving safely — there is no higher or lower standard of care based on whether they were on the street their route typically follows.

  • who_the

    The headline says “Family to sue,” but the story says they are only filing a claim, the “first step” toward suing the city. Not the same thing.

    @GGxGG: Hartford is a very narrow two-way street on which a bus of any size has no business. Two cars going in opposite directions can barely pass one another on this street. I agree completely that bus drivers should drive safely regardless of their route or location. And I could be convinced that, in some cases, a route specified by central dispatch is overkill. However, this driver’s poor judgment in route selection perfectly illustrates the rationale behind such a policy.

  • who_the

    The headline says “Family to sue,” but the story says they are only filing a claim, the “first step” toward suing the city. Not the same thing.

    @GGxGG: Hartford is a very narrow two-way street on which a bus of any size has no business. Two cars going in opposite directions can barely pass one another on this street. I agree completely that bus drivers should drive safely regardless of their route or location. And I could be convinced that, in some cases, a route specified by central dispatch is overkill. However, this driver’s poor judgment in route selection perfectly illustrates the rationale behind such a policy.