Trucker Who Killed Amelie Le Moullac Deemed “Negligent” in Civil Suit
5:19 PM PST on January 15, 2015
A civil jury has determined that a truck driver was negligent when he killed Amelie Le Moullac as she rode her bike at Folsom and Sixth Streets in August 2013, KQED's Bryan Goebel (Streetsblog SF's first editor) reported today:
A San Francisco Superior Court jury has found the driver of a big rig truck negligent for striking and killing a 24-year-old woman who was bicycling to Caltrain in the city’s South of Market.
Amelie Le Moullac’s family had sought $20 million in damages from the driver, Gilberto Alcantar, 47, and Milpitas-based Daylight Foods. The jury awarded the family $4 million, and also found Daylight Foods legally responsible for the August 2013 crash at 6th and Folsom streets.
“This was not a mere accident, and I’m relieved to hear from the jury that something wrong was done, and I’m very sorry that the police missed that,” Denis Le Moullac, Amelie’s father, told KQED. “One can only be relieved to hear that our daughter had done nothing wrong. This is not really something that deeply consoles us, but it satisfies us.”
The finding that Le Moullac was not at fault for her own death reinforces the finding of SFPD investigators after footage of the crash was presented to them by Marc Caswell, then a staffer for the SF Bicycle Coalition, who tracked down the video himself after a memorial and rally held at the scene of the crash. Earlier that day, SFPD Sergeant Richard Ernst had parked in the bike lane to make a point of blaming Le Moullac for her own death.
"After we held the memorial for Ms. Le Moullac, and Sergeant Ernst had acted so outrageously, we were standing on the corner cleaning up when I had a pang of doubt that the SFPD had treated this case as seriously as I would have hoped they would," Caswell recalled. "So, I decided to just ask the businesses -- and I am so honored that my small action led to some amount of resolution for the Le Moullac family from this terrible injustice."
Even though Caswell's video helped police investigators determine that Alcantar made an illegal right turn across the bike lane, District Attorney George Gascón declined to press charges against Alcantar because prosecutors were "unable to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt."
Alcantar's attorney argued until the end that Alcantar did nothing wrong, as Goebel reported:
At one point in closing, defense attorney Kevin Taylor argued there was no physical evidence the truck ran over Le Moullac.
“This is a case of two well-intentioned people that accidentally had an accident and one of them suffered greatly,” Taylor said. “We wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”
Taylor argued that once the bike lane becomes dashed, and drivers are allowed to enter it and turn, it becomes a shared lane where “the burden shifts to bicyclists to think, ‘What do I have to do to protect myself as I approach the intersection?'" He claimed Le Moullac ran into the truck and was wearing earbuds that prevented her from hearing nearby traffic.
"This is a tragic reminder that, for too long, the SF Police Department has too quickly labeled crashes as 'accidents,' without a full and complete investigation that may show otherwise," said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. "In this case, it was apparent that the police and the SF District Attorney's Office did not handle this case in a fair and equitable manner, which seems to be a troubling trend based on many others' experiences of being treated inadequately when biking or walking."
In a nearly identical case in Cleveland in 2009, a trucker faced much harsher consequences for killing 22-year-old Sylvia Bingham, originally of San Rafael, on her bike. The truck driver, Herschel Roberts, was sentenced to three years in prison and lost his driver’s license for life. A judge found Roberts guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide because he "had likely passed Bingham on her bike seconds earlier and, by law, had a duty to look in the truck’s mirrors before turning right."
Shahum said the Le Moullac case also shows that "San Francisco leaders need to step up their work to reach Vision Zero and do all they can to make our streets safe for all road users."
"That includes prioritizing fair and equitable enforcement, creating safe space for people biking and walking, and improving training for those on the road, particularly professional drivers who spend many hours behind the wheel and have been involved in a disturbing number of crashes with people who are simply biking or walking to work."
More from Streetsblog San Francisco
Commentary: the Bay Area Needs its Own “Arroyo Fest”
What San Francisco and Oakland can learn from Los Angeles... yes, Los Angeles