$1,650,000 settlement - truck plunges off bay bridge at "s" curve

Tahir Fakhar died on November 9, 2009 at 3:30 a.m. when his tractor-trailer rig went off the "S" curve on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge and plunged 200 feet to Yerba Buena Island below. He was assigned to take a container of imported Chinese pears from Oakland to San Francisco. What he did not know was that the container was substantially overloaded. He also did not know that the temporary "S' curve consisting of two sharp curves had recently been constructed while the new bridge was under construction. This was his first trip over the Bay Bridge since the change had been made. He was traveling the normal Bay Bridge speed limit of 50 mph when he unexpectedly and suddenly encountered the first very sharp curve causing his trailer to fall to the right over the temporary K rail pulling the tractor over with it. The conclusion of MAIT was the accident was caused by a combination of speed of the vehicle, its weight and the sharpness of the curve.

We contended that the State was liable because the curve for westbound drivers constituted a dangerous condition and created a dangerous and hidden trap for westbound motorists because of a sudden and unexpectedly sharp left turn. The lanes were narrow, there was no superelevation in the curve and the warnings of the dangerous curve were ineffective. The few speed advisory signs in place were insufficient both in location and effectiveness. The degree of sharpness of the curve was completely unexpected. The design of the curves failed to comply with CalTrans' own standards. The State failed to follow accepted traffic engineering procedures and standards for setting a safe speed limit. As soon as the "S" curve was constructed, accidents began to happen at an alarming rate. Prior to Mr. Fakhar's fatal accident, a total of 48 accidents occurred at the curve in 7 weeks including a Safeway truck that tipped over but stayed on the bridge only 26 days before the fatal accident. After the fatal accident, overhead signs, flashing signs, speed zone signs, rumble strips and other warnings were added which dramatically reduced accidents.

There were four "trucking" defendants who knew or should have known the container was overweight. Each defendant had the duty to forward to the next defendant the weight of the container. The owner of the shipment of pears, the customs broker, the owner of the customs examining site and the trucking company responsible for delivering the pears all should have been given information about the weight. There was conflicting testimony by the trucking defendants about what weight documents were received. Clearly all defendants should have known that the arrival notice explicitly stated the container was overweight and could not be picked up on the normal chassis. The load should have been split into two loads. None of this information was provided to decedent. The imported container was sealed and decedent could not open it and was not given information about its weight.

Decedent was 56 years old when he was killed. He grew up in Pakistan and came to the U.S. in 1991. His wife and two sons arrived a few years later. The family was hardworking, private and very close. Decedent won several safe driving awards and earned an average income of approximately $60,000 per year. The settlement will provide sufficient funds for his widow to live and provide sufficient funds for completion of the education of the youngest son.