Jury Finds Delivery Truck Driver Solely Responsible for San Francisco Bicyclist’s Death

Synopsis

On August 14, 2013, Gilberto Orihuela Alcantar, a delivery truck driver for Daylight Foods, Inc., struck and killed 24-year-old bicyclist Amelie Le Moullac while turning from Folsom Street onto Sixth Street in San Francisco. At the time of the collision, Amelie was proceeding straight in a designated bike lane and was wearing a helmet. Alcantar had observed and passed Amelie earlier on Folsom Street, but claimed he did not see her when he checked his mirrors to turn onto Sixth Street.

The collision received substantial publicity because the San Francisco Police Department initially found Amelie at fault for the collision for overtaking Alcantar's vehicle on the right. Alcantar was later cited by the police department after the San Francisco Bicycle Collision located surveillance video showing Alcantar hitting Amelie with the front of his truck. At the time of her deposition over a year later though, the investigating police officer still maintained that she had insufficient information to determine fault.

Amelie's family alleged that Alcantar should have ensured that it was safe to turn before doing so and that he also should have merged into the bike lane instead of turning across it. Alcantar and his employer denied any responsibility for Amelie's death. They argued that Amelie was solely responsible for her death because she was unsafely attempting to pass Alcantar on the right while he was turning. They also argued that Amelie was distracted by her use of earbuds and iPod which were found at the scene. Defense counsel argued that the burden was on Amelie to protect herself at intersections and asked the jury to return a defense verdict.

Injuries and Damages: Amelie's parents, Denis Le Moullac and Jessie Jewitt, filed the lawsuit seeking damages for the loss of their daughter's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support, emotional support, counsel, encouragement, inspiration, and guidance. Amelie was unmarried and had no children at the time of her death.

Plaintiffs presented evidence that Amelie was unique, or an outlier, in terms of the degree of emotional support she provided to both of her parents. Witnesses described her during trial testimony as the glue that held the family together and as the daughter that would have cared for her parents as they aged.

Result: The jury determined that Alcantar was 100% negligent and that his negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to Plaintiffs. The jury awarded $4 million to the parents. The jury also found that Amelie was not negligent.