Family of Bicyclist Killed by Drunk Driver Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Nils Yannick Linke

Nils Yannick Linke

Lawyers for the family of Nils Yannick Linke have filed a wrongful death lawsuit [pdf] against Joshua Calder, the Oakland man charged with drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter for allegedly mowing down the 22-year-old as he was riding a bicycle on Masonic Avenue last August. The suit also names Calder’s girlfriend, Nicole Mairs, and her grandmother, June Soelberg, who was the owner of the 1989 Mercedes involved in the crash.

“The defendants willfully got behind the wheel of a car after an evening of drinking and struck down Nils as he rode his bike.  They left the scene of the accident without rendering any assistance or calling for help.  The result is this young man’s tragic death.  While Calder is being tried in a criminal court, all of the defendants are also guilty of negligence,” attorney Kevin Lancaster said in a statement.

The complaint, filed last week, seeks a jury trial for general and punitive damages.

“As a direct and legal result of the defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions, plaintiffs Petra Linke and Jtiergen Schneider-Linke have suffered the loss of their son, including the loss of Nils Yannick Linke’s love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace and moral support,” reads the court document filed by attorneys for the Linke family.

Calder, 36, has pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury, DUI and leaving the scene of an accident causing injury. He is currently free on $500,000 bail and awaiting a preliminary hearing. If convicted, Calder could face up to nine years in prison.

Mairs, who according to court documents took over the wheel and fled the scene with Calder in the passenger’s seat after the crash, has not been charged. A spokesperson for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has not responded to inquiries about whether Mairs is still being investigated, and could face charges.

Linke’s death spurred more urgent calls to fix Masonic Avenue, one of San Francisco’s most notorious traffic sewers. The SFMTA has made several improvements, and is currently involved in a long-term planning process that advocates hope will lead to transforming Masonic into a boulevard-like street with cycletracks.

“Clearly this tragedy is a direct result of Mairs’ and Calder’s blatant disregard for the safety of others. However, this case also highlights the need for safer streets for bicyclists in the city,” said Lancaster.

Linke, who was a college student and musician, was born and raised in Berlin and had been attending school in Vienna, where he was studying anthropology. A world traveler, it had been his first trip to San Francisco. His violent death sent a wave of grief through the bicycling community. More than 100 people — most of whom never knew Linke — turned out for a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to his life.