Table of contents:

Liou v. Caltrans



A Catastrophic Pedestrian Crosswalk Accident in a San Francisco Suburb,  the Lawyers and the Lawsuit

Attorneys: Rich Schoenberger, Doug Saeltzer Firm: Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger 

Verdict: $12.2 million dollars

“The co-mingling of cars and people is so potentially dangerous, that we as a society—especially one that is trying to reduce our reliance on oil and increase health—have to include pedestrians and cyclists in the triad of transportation.  That means making sure that everybody is safe and as safe as can be.  To the extent that that costs money—that is money worth spending. CalTrans is mostly focused on highways. They don’t deal a lot with pedestrians, and so their focus isn’t on pedestrians—it is on vehicles.

Richard Schoenberger front page image 2-page1

At Ludeman Lane and El Camino Real in Milbrae, we had a crosswalk at an  intersection that was uncontrolled, meaning, there were no stop signs and no traffic signals, but it had a marked crosswalk. Having a marked crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection is dangerous, because it lulls pedestrians into a false sense of security. We accused Caltrans of just paying lip service to pedestrian safety because they weren’t implementing any traffic safety procedures that would have actually affected that. We had a study that basically said, ‘If you have a roadway like El Camino Real, you should not have a pedestrian crosswalk at an intersections if certain criteria are met--more specifically, a marked crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection if certain criteria are met. That criteria was met here with respect to the pedestrian traffic and all the other characteristics of the El Camino Real roadway. During trial, Caltrans was then in the awkward position of saying, ‘We didn’t know this study existed,’ and then our proving that they did in fact know this study existed. They had reproduced sections of it within their own synthesis in 2005. Therefore, they should have acted upon it by removing the marked crosswalk at Ludeman Lane and El Camino Real because there were alternative intersections that people could have crossed that were safer. We argued that the fix was easy—it wouldn’t have cost them anything to just take a sign away and take a crosswalk away and say ‘Don’t Cross Here.’”  - Rich Schoenberger

The Crosswalk Accident Lawyers


Rich Schoenberger:

Rich Schoenberger, of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, is a brilliant San Francisco personal injury trial lawyer--undoubtedly one of the very best in the entire Bay Area, if not in all of northern California. However, as he sat facing his computer one long night in 2010, he was frustrated and discouraged. He and his firm had been working on Emily Liou's case now for 3 years, and it was slowly going nowhere. If something didn't significantly change, Emily would lose her case against Caltrans--California's Transit Authority--and her parents would not have the money they were going to desperately need in order to take care of her for the rest of her life. There are many varying characteristics of brilliant trial lawyers--but the one thing they all have in common is a highly developed sense of intuition and the ability to rely on their gut instincts. Rich's instinct from years of practicing law told him that there was much more to this case than they were seeing, but he was going to have to find out exactly what that was and then he was going to have to prove it. However, another common characteristic of brilliant trial lawyers is that they don't like to lose--nor do they often--and Rich had resolutely decided that he was just not going to lose this case. Furthermore, his firm--Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger--included some of the State's most highly respected and successful trial attorneys and they were all equally committed. The quality of Emily's life depended heavily on it. Losing was not an option.

Emily Liou


The Tragic Pedestrian Crosswalk Accident at Ludeman Lane in Milbrae:

Unless you have been involved in a pedestrian accident, or you know someone who has, you have most likely never pondered the dangers of simply crossing the street--or more specifically--crossing the street in a crosswalk at an intersection. The same probably could be said of Emily Liou, who, on the night of March 28, 2006--at approximately 8 pm--was crossing El Camino Real at Ludeman Lane in Milbrae, where she lived with her family. She was almost fully across the street--having crossed 6 of 8 lanes--when a driver hit her in the marked [designated] crosswalk at what is known as an uncontrolled intersection--an intersection without a stop sign or a traffic signal. For vehicles travelling southbound, such as the one that hit Emily, the intersection sits just slightly below the other side of the crest of a hill, which makes it not only difficult for drivers to see that intersection, but also almost impossible to see the crosswalk markings before them on the street. Drivers can actually see the traffic light at the next intersection--Center Street--long before they are apt to notice the Ludeman Lane intersection.  This is especially true at night, when Emily was hit. The driver who hit Emily was driving under the speed limit of 35 mph, nor had she been drinking. However, Emily was knocked violently to the ground and suffered massive brain damage as a result. The driver maintained that she had not seen Emily--who was wearing dark clothing--until it was too late. We will never know what ran through Emily's mind at that time as she was catastrophically injured, and remains to this day in a vegetative state. Her parents will never be able to hear the sound of her voice again. Or, she her go to her Prom, or attend college, or get married, or have children, or any of those things that parents naturally wish to experience with their children, and wish for their children. As a result of that night, Emily's life was irrevocably and tragically shortened.  She was only 17 years old at the time.

Following the accident, Dr. Liou--Emily's father--took her to China where it was easier to afford the medical treatment that she required. In China, the family participates in, and is involved with, the rehabilitation of family members who have been injured. Because Emily's family couldn't afford to take care of her in the States, they transported her to China where they could.  At the time of trial, Emily's father sat faithfully in attendance. Her family wanted to bring her back home. Unless they prevailed at trial, they would be unable to do so, which was just one more heartache they would have to endure. Everything depended on their personal injury lawyers, and Rich and Doug and the entire firm of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger were determined to make that happen for them. In Rich's words, "Every day this case was an enormous effort and an enormous challenge, but it was also a labor or love. We were committed to obtaining the results that were needed in order to provide Emily's parents with the critical finances necessary, to enable them to take the very best possible care of her for the rest of her life--however long that might be--and to do so here in the States where she belonged."


Pedestrian Accidents



Pedestrian Accidents in the United States:

Between 2003 and 2012, 47,025 people died walking on streets throughout the Country, with many such pedestrian accidents occurring at crosswalks--and those at dangerous intersections. That is sixteen times the total number of people who died due tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires, and countless other natural disasters. Additionally, approximately 676,000 pedestrians were injured. The combined total of those numbers equals over 723,025 pedestrians who were either injured or killed in a ten year period of time. That number is both staggering and disturbing. The majority of pedestrian deaths occur on what are known as "arterial" roadways that were specifically designed, planned and engineered to enhance traffic flow.  The primary function of arterial roads is to deliver traffic to and from major freeways and expressways, as efficiently as possible. The Federal "Fatality Analysis Reporting System" shows that pedestrians are most often killed on arterial roadways--which are typically higher speed roads. Crosswalks at intersections on these arterial roads create particularly dangerous situations. In transportation planning and engineering, arterial roads are designed to move the greatest amount of traffic possible over long distances with the least amount of delay.  This means that they are generally built wide, straight and flat--in other words--fast. Over 60% of pedestrian deaths occurred on roads that had a speed limit of 40 mph or faster. As arterial roads have become the main thoroughfares in most communities--communities bordered by schools, parks, businesses, homes and apartment buildings, all connected by crosswalks and intersections--there is an inadvertent collision between people and roadways that lead to confusion, injury and death. The fact that more than half of all pedestrian deaths over the past 10 years occurred on arterial roads throughout the country--supports this.

Pedestrian Traffic Accidents, Fatalities & Lawsuits in San Francisco & Surrounding Suburbs:

Considering these facts, it might therefore surprise you to learn that pedestrian traffic accidents are still not easy to prove. In many of these accidents in San Francisco and surrounding areas, because of the sheer number of pedestrians, drivers try to blame the pedestrians for these accidents--claiming that a pedestrian's own negligence was to blame and therefore, they are at fault for their own injury. The crosswalk laws in California require drivers to always yield the right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk--whether that be a marked crosswalk or an unmarked one. However, a pedestrian might have been talking on a cell phone, texting, listening to music, failed to use a crosswalk, crossed a street illegally, failed to pay attention to traffic, and generally, failed to be aware and cautious regarding their own surroundings--basically, failing to exercise what is legally referred to as "due care" with regard to their own safety. Crosswalk accident lawyers representing injured pedestrians--or their families for wrongful death lawsuits--on the other hand, try to prove that the driver himself or herself was at fault, and there is a long list of reasons why it might actually be so. Common causes of pedestrian accidents in San Francisco, or anywhere for that matter, might include a driver failing to check for pedestrians in a crosswalk, failing to stop at stop signs or stop lights, texting, talking on a cell phone, making illegal turns, driving under the influence or aggressively, speeding, etc. The list is all too ripe with far too many possibilities, unfortunately. A good pedestrian accident lawyer or law firm will go to great lengths to discover what really happened, who is to blame, and skillfully make their case in favor of their client's best interest and best possible outcome. This can be rather tricky in California however, because California is what is known as a "Comparative Fault" state. What this means essentially, is that both driver and pedestrian can be found to be partially at fault, and therefore, whatever the jury awards as a verdict to a plaintiff, that amount is reduced by the percentage of fault directly attributed to that plaintiff--or injured party.




The Pedestrian Crosswalk Lawsuit: Caltrans and the Question of Liability:

The unusual aspect to this case however, lie in the fact that Rich and his law partner Doug Saeltzer—at Walkup Melodia, felt that the primary fault of the accident should be directly attributed to Caltrans, due to the roadway/intersection design which respect to placing a marked crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection on an arterial road, thereby creating a false sense of security for pedestrians and masking a highly dangerous set of circumstances—particularly in view of how hilly the area surrounding Ludeman Lane was. As Rich now sat facing a blank computer screen, his gut told him he was right. Now he was just going to have to prove it.

Earlier that day, Rich’s firm had conducted a mock jury in order to better evaluate the strengths and weakness of their case—prior to trial.  It did just that, as it became quite evident that the “Jurors” were far from convinced that Caltrans was in anyway responsible for the accident—and Rich and Walkup Melodia, just weren’t making their case. Rich went home saying to himself, “This is crazy – here is an intersection with no controls whatsoever, and it is like a turkey shoot for pedestrians to get across.”  So, when Rich went home that night knowing that very soon they were going to try this case and that it was going to be an extremely difficult case to win. As he sat down at his computer, his instinct from years of practicing law, told him that there was more to the case than they were seeing. He continues, “So I went online, and here was this study, a federal study that had been done in 2000 that was a sidewalk study done by the Federal Highway Administration. And it was called, ‘The Safety Effects of Marked v. Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations.’  It was executive summary with recommended guidelines and it was right in our wheelhouse.  Because here we had a pedestrian crosswalk accident at an intersection that was uncontrolled—meaning there were no stop signs and there were no traffic signals, but it had a crosswalk, and we were trying to say, that having a crosswalk is dangerous, because it lulls pedestrians into this false sense of security. And all of a sudden this study revealed our argument in a way that we then completely changed our whole theme. Our whole theory – everything was different.” That was the night everything changed.


The Study


The Study: 

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Safety, is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation whose main aim—for many years—has been to develop projects and programs that reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.  One of these programs is known as the FHWA’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program, which studies ways to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety. In 2002, The FHWA commissioned a federal study to be done, that would among other things, specifically examine crosswalk safety at uncontrolled intersections, and provide recommended guidelines. This crosswalk study was entitled, Safety Effects of Marked Versus Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations:  Executive Summary and Recommended Guidelines.  It was included within a broader FHWA study known as “Evaluation of Pedestrian Facilities.”  Over a five year period, accident data from 1000 marked and 1000 unmarked crosswalks in 30 cities was analyzed. All of the sites in the study were at uncontrolled intersections, meaning, there were no traffic signals or stop signs. The FHWA summarized the results and distributed them to transportation engineers throughout the country, including Caltrans, at least by 2002—which was four years before Emily’s accident.

The Findings: 

On high-speed, high volume and multi-lane roads with average daily traffic greater than 12,000 vehicles—or traffic greater than 15,000 vehicles if there is a raised median—painted white lines were not enough to reduce pedestrian accidents or crashes or otherwise enhance pedestrian safety.  Furthermore, marked crosswalks alone—without “traffic calming” devices—at uncontrolled intersections, would not lower pedestrian crash rates.  In fact, marked crosswalks without traffic calming devices were found to have higher pedestrian crash rates than those sites with unmarked crosswalks. More substantial improvements therefore needed to be provided such as installing traffic signals and/or pedestrian activated signals, installing in-ground pavement lighting, implementing measures for reducing the speed of traffic, etc.

The Recommendations: 

The Study recommended that marked crosswalks alone were not recommended at uncontrolled intersections on multi-lane roads with raised medians, and where average daily traffic exceeded 15,000 vehicles.  Additionally, only installing marked crosswalks on roadways with that had speed limits higher than 40 mph were not recommended and marked crosswalks should be routinely monitored to determine whether improvements are needed.



The Challenges of Trial


The Trial: 

The night that Rich found the FHWA study, the case had been going on for close to three years. It was now nearing trial—and there were two main challenges that he faced: First, the accident history at Ludeman Lane; second, getting the study admitted into evidence, which was critical to establishing liability; and third, proving why Caltran's own monitoring system--that accumulates and monitors all accidents on California roads--had not flagged Ludeman Lane as a problem area.

The First Challenge: Past Accident History of Ludeman Lane

Prior to March 2006, there had been only four pedestrian accidents—three deaths and one injury—at the intersection of Ludeman Lane and El Camino Real, although approximately 90 million cars had gone through there during that time period. Therefore, the percentage of accidents that had happened with respect to the number of cars going though was infinitesimally small and there had not been a big history of problems at this intersection. The jury instructions say that you have to prove that the condition is one that causes a substantial risk of harm to those using the area with due care; in other words, that even to reasonable people, it is still substantially dangerous. And so public entities rely on the past with regard to assessing liability and responsibility—“What has gone on here with respect to the past?” On the surface, it didn’t look as though there had really been a problem. However, there were three other intersections within a quarter of a mile from this intersection—Santa Helena, San Diego, and Millwood—that had similar numbers to Ludeman Lane. Rich had to get the judge to allow them to admit the injuries at those intersections as well, in order to prove that all of them were dangerous and that there was a systemic problem within Caltrans with regard to accessing and implementing pedestrian safety measures. That was a big challenge. In his words:

“Finding these studies caused us to turn our lens and look at everything much differently. We saw in these studies that if you look at the accident statistics from the viewpoint of the cars that had gone by, that was one thing; but if you looked at it though from the standpoint of pedestrian traffic, than the entire paradigm changes. We had never looked at it from that perspective. And what we didn’t have, and what the State didn’t have, was a pedestrian volume count. And so we actually commissioned a pedestrian volume count because that was a stat that the 2000 study really paid close attention to. [The pedestrian count done for Ludeman Lane showed 70 pedestrians crossing per day.] They had a grid that said, ‘If you have a certain number of injuries for pedestrians–depending on how many pedestrians there are, and at certain kinds of roads, mainly those that have speed limits greater than 35 miles per hour with an average daily traffic of x vehicles per day, with this number of lanes and with this number of pedestrians—you are in a completely different ballgame. So our pedestrian volume studies, which we were able to get admitted, actually demonstrated that this roadway was in fact dangerous according to this grid, from the year 2000. So what we spent a lot of time doing, was replacing the notice of actual number of accidents with the notice mainly the knowledge—constructive or actual—of the folks at the State of California of this study. Think about the State. The State is mostly focused on highways. They don’t deal a lot with pedestrians, and so their focus isn’t on pedestrians—it is on vehicles. So in essence, we accused them of just paying lip service to pedestrian safety in some of their articles or directives, because they weren’t implementing any traffic safety procedures that would have actually affected that. So here we had a study that basically said, “If you have a roadway like El Camino Real, you should not have a crosswalk if certain criteria are met. And the criteria were met here with respect to the pedestrian volume and all the other characteristics of this roadway. CalTrans then was in the awkward position of saying, ‘We didn’t know this study existed,’ and then our proving that they should have known this study existed and that they did in fact know this study existed, because they had reproduced sections of it in their own synthesis in 2005. Therefore, they should have acted upon it by removing the crosswalk because there were alternative intersections that people could have crossed that were safer, where there was a traffic signal, or they could have put in a traffic signal. But what we wanted to argue was that the fix was easy—it wouldn’t have cost them anything to just take a sign away and take a crosswalk away and say ‘Don’t Cross Here.’

The Second Challenge: The Issue of Liability--Proving Knowledge of the Study

The 2002 FHWA study had led Rich to other studies casting light on the dangers of marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. In 1972, the city of San Diego commissioned a study known as the “Herms Study,” where they investigated 400 pedestrian accidents over a five-year period in the 1960s, and concluded that "approximately twice as many pedestrian accidents [per pedestrian crossing] occur in marked crosswalks as in unmarked crosswalks." Those results were referenced in a later study, sponsored by Caltrans, conducted by the Department of Civil Engineering at California State University-Chico in 1994. That study reached the same conclusions: marked crosswalks have a higher frequency of pedestrian accidents than unmarked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. These studies, along with the FHWA study, were well known and discussed among traffic engineers across the country.

The FHWA study was conducted in order to evaluate and clarify the results of those prior studies. Consequently, getting the FHWA study admitted into evidence was integral to the success of the case. The study would illustrate [prove] that Caltrans knew marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections such as Ludeman Lane, Santa Helena, San Diego, and Millwood, were highly dangerous to pedestrians; therefore, they should have inspected these four intersections more carefully and taken action as a result of those inspections. Regardless, Caltrans never acted on the studys’ guidelines. Had Caltrans followed the studys’ recommendations—they provided notice to Caltrans of reliable and authoritative safety recommendations—the crosswalk at Ludeman Lane in Milbrae would have been removed or significant “traffic calming” improvements to increase the safety of the crosswalk would have been installed such as: a signal, in-ground pavement lights, pedestrian-activated signal controls, etc. The point being, Emily’s tragic accident could have been avoided.

One of the most critical points that Rich made at trial was that Caltrans works closely with the FHWA, the FHWA has offices in California, and there are liaisons that exist between Caltrans and the FHWA. Furthermore, the results of the FHWA study had been summarized and distributed to transportation engineers, including Caltrans, by 2002—four years before Emily’s accident. Therefore, Caltrans had not only known about the 2002 study conducted by the FHWA, but they had trusted it enough, recognizing its reliability and authoritative nature, to “adopt” it by including portions of it in the synthesis that they themselves published in 2005 entitled, Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities in California: A Technical Reference In Technology Transfer Synthesis for Caltrans Planners and Engineers. This synthesis had been distributed to their own transportation engineers within the State of California. The FHWA Crosswalk Safety Study is cited in the synthesis in the section titled, Pedestrians: Crossings: Uncontrolled Crosswalk Siting Guidelines, and actually reproduced Table 1 from this Crosswalk Safety Study. This table was included among the exhibits presented at trial.

Getting the study admitted into evidence, along with the synthesis, was critical to proving Caltrans knew of the study and had, in fact, incorporated it into their own publication, yet failed to act on its recommendations. This was critical to establishing liability—the key issue in any personal injury or negligence case. For a lawsuit to be successful, several of the things that a plaintiff must prove is that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, and that there was a breach of that duty. As Caltrans owns the roadways in California, it falls within their responsibility to maintain them properly—doing their best to ensure the safety of those who use them. By failing to take action to remedy a known unsafe situation at Ludeman Lane and El Camino Real in Milbrae, they were responsible or liable for Emily’s catastrophic injuries. The crosswalk safety study was highly relevant to show Caltran’s knowledge that marked crosswalks were dangerous. A public entity—Caltrans—is not liable for injuries except as provided by state statute, or state law, which states:

“A public entity is liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition of its property if the plaintiff establishes that the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury, that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition, that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred.”

The statute also goes on to state that a public entity has to have “actual or constructive notice” of the dangerous condition—in this case, having been notified directly or indirectly concerning the dangers of unmarked crosswalks—for a sufficient amount of time prior to the accident or injury, in order to fix or remedy the dangerous condition. Failure to do so makes them liable for that resulting injury or accident.

In the case of Emily Liou, the uncontrolled intersection of Ludeman Lane and State Route 82 (SR-82), otherwise referred to as El Camino Real—a multi-lane roadway with a speed of 35 mph, with a raised median and average daily traffic of more than 25,000 vehicles—created a highly dangerous situation for pedestrians on March 28, 2006, due to the existence of the marked crosswalk—exactly as detailed in both the FHWA study and Caltran’s own synthesis. The Crosswalk Safety Study specifically advised against placing marked crosswalks at such intersections under the theory that they presented an increased safety risk to pedestrians.  Furthermore, it advised that if such crosswalks were placed, that they should not only be accompanied by substantial safety improvements, but most importantly, routinely monitored to determine whether additional improvements were necessary.

The Third Challenge: Caltran's Monitoring System--TASAS

TASAS stands for "Traffic Accident Surveillance and Accounting System," and is a computer database system that that accumulates and monitors information regarding all accidents that happen on all of California's roads. It gathers information with respect to how, when and where accidents happen--as well as how often they occur at any given location. Every potential type of accident is identified and tracked in the TASAS system; however, Caltrans seemed oblivious to not only the number of pedestrian accidents that were happening at their intersections, but how inherently dangerous these intersections were.  Rich had to dig deep and show the jury why this was so.

Answering the Question of Why: 

If Caltrans knew of the study, and had in fact incorporated it into its own synthesis which it had distributed to its own engineers, why hadn’t they followed those recommendations? There had to be an answer to this question. During the trial and the cross examination of the Field Traffic Investigator, and the Senior Traffic Engineer responsible for that District—San Mateo and Solano Counties and all the roadways within—the answers eventually became apparent to the jury.


The Plaintiff’s Case

The Scene of the Accident--an On-Site Visit:

Rich and Doug felt that the jurors needed to experience first-hand the conditions surrounding Ludeman Lane and El Camino Real, so they arranged a site visit. This was almost unprecedented in civil trials. They piled the jury into cars and had them transported to the intersection, driven through the intersection, and then had them cross the intersection themselves--after having Caltrans close the intersection for an hour in order to ensure their safety. It was the first time Rich had ever done such a thing for a case, but Rich is known for his out-of-the-box thinking, and his instinct told him it needed to be done. It proved to be highly effective; regardless of how skillfully the defense team tried to convince the jury that the intersection wasn't dangerous--that the crosswalk at the intersection wasn't dangerous--they were able to see for themselves that it was, and this significantly impacted the outcome of the case.

Key Revelations: Caltran’s Monitoring System:

Rich felt it imperative that the jury understand how Caltran’s computer monitoring system—TASAS— worked. He detailed through testimony, how the TASAS office received all the collision reports from Headquarters; however, explaining that according to policy, only the fatal collision reports were sent to all the Senior Traffic Engineers—not the non-fatal ones. Those were kept in a file room that they had access to. Most importantly, he was able to make the point that many pedestrian accidents were not fatal, yet they were still catastrophic and life altering, as was the case for Emily; the critical issue therefore being—no one was seeing these reports.

Furthermore, based on the type of roadway, TASAS had what was called an expected accident rate, meaning on any certain road type, there would most likely be ‘X’ number of accidents per year. TASAS compared different locations to that expected average. There was an average number of accidents expected for two-lane, three-lane, etc., and the system kept track of it all. TASAS identified and tracked pedestrian accidents, along with everything else, and when the actual number of accidents exceeded what was the expected number of accidents, it got flagged. Then TASAS produced what was referred to as a “Table C” report. The serious problem with this process was however, that pedestrian accidents were never included as a separate category within those reports—they were never singularly identified—but rather, were incorporated within the following categories: Total number of accidents, property damage only, fatality + injury, fatality only, and injury only. The critical issue being therefore, pedestrian accident information was contained within TASAS, but rarely generated from it—and it was never individually identified within Caltran’s reports. Furthermore, pedestrian data needed to be specifically requested by someone in order to be made available. The “concept” of pedestrian safety apparently had not yet permeated the labyrinth of Caltran’s corporate mentality, nor did it seem to have trickled down to their traffic safety engineers.

Table C Reports: 

These reports alert Caltrans Headquarters that a problem might exist at a certain location because the number of accidents occurring there are much higher than what they are expected to be. These are referred to as “HCCL,” or High Concentration Collision Locations. The accuracy and reliability of these reports is crucial, as they form the basis for follow up field investigations leading to—or not—critical safety improvements.  More specifically, if the right data is not utilized for these complex statistical formulas, the results are skewed, producing “false positives” or “false negatives.” These are locations that have been improperly identified as needing, or not needing safety improvements.

Key Caltrans’s Employees:

Two of the key witnesses that Rich called to the stand were Caltran’s employees, The Senior Traffic Engineer Ms. Yim, and the Traffic Field Investigator Mr. Caldwell. During the trial, Rich repeatedly called into question Ms. Yim’s job performance—had she done her job responsibly and fulfilled its requirements—but, first and foremost, was she even qualified for the position she held?

The Lack of Qualifications of the District 4 Senior Traffic Engineer:

Caltrans has “divided” California into 12 geographical “districts.” The San Francisco Bay area is referred to as “District 4,” which is comprised of 2000 road miles with the 9 bay area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. Ms. Yim, the Senior Traffic Engineer for Caltrans, had worked at Caltrans since 1988, however, she had not held any position that was associated with the Traffic Safety Dept until 2004, when she had been offered the position of Senior Traffic Engineer in Traffic Safety—a subset of the Operations Division—in “District 4.” Furthermore, she had only had one week of formal traffic safety training provided by Caltrans once she had already been given the job. Ms. Yim was responsible for San Mateo County and Solano County. Rich made the point that most of the state roads in Solano and San Mateo Counties were freeways or highways—the majority of them did not have crosswalks, much less intersections or more importantly, uncontrolled intersections for that matter.  In fact, SR-82 or El Camino Real was the only roadway in the entire San Mateo County that had marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. Nor had any of those prior positions included any job duties pertaining to El Camino or any marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. Before 2004, she had never recommended in-ground pavement lighting, nor zebra lines within crosswalks, nor any flashing beacons, nor pedestrian activated signals which serve to alert motorists of crossing pedestrians—all of which are considered to be standard “traffic calming devices” recommended by the Studies.

Before 2004, Ms. Yim stated that she was aware of the “Traffic Manual” that was used by Caltrans, but never had needed to refer to it for her prior positions—particularly with regard to crosswalks and intersections, as it was not necessary for the job responsibilities she had at the time.  Before her current job, she had never heard of MUTCD (Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices) which replaced the Traffic Manual.  MUTCD is “the” manual issued and distributed by the FHWA, to specify and set forth, the standards by which traffic signals, road markings and traffic signs are designed, installed and used by transportation agencies throughout the country.  When she became Senior Traffic Engineer, she testified that she did use it periodically as a reference, though she was more familiar with CA-MUTCD, the California version of the manual. Surprisingly however, she did not seem to know what either had to say about marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. Yim testified that she had never heard of the study conducted by the FHWA or in fact, ever seen it, nor was she familiar at all with the Synthesis or with its recommendations.  She seemed to be vaguely aware of some discussion regarding marked crosswalks creating a false sense of security for pedestrians, but could not recall any further details or when that might have been discussed.

Rich made the point that: as senior transportation engineer for pedestrian safety in two counties—she must have known that pedestrians were an important part of the transportation system that she was supervising and that El Camino Real had lots of areas where cars and pedestrians could potentially interact - different from the highways and freeways she was accustomed to working with. Furthermore, there had been a directive issued by the Director of Caltrans, as early as 2001, that the department fully considers the needs of non-motorized travelers including pedestrians in all programming, planning, maintenance, construction, operations, etc.  As she was under the Operations Division, this obviously would be part of her policy to include pedestrians in her thinking, planning and traffic safety. Yim testified however that the directive was never specifically provided to her as it was issued before she joined the division, therefore she was unaware of it.

The Job Requirements:

The jury was no doubt scratching their collective heads when Rich read to the Court, the advertised job position for which Yim was hired in 2004.  It read as follows:

"This position requires the incumbent to have extensive education and experience in transportation engineering  and be a registered civil engineer; ''the senior must be familiar with the various state and national manuals, codes, laws, regulations, warrants, standards, etcetera, for traffic engineering and have the judgment to apply this judgment in a timely manner.”

Furthermore, it stated that that 25% of the job was to direct the work for traffic investigations. And to devise corrective measures for improving traffic safety. Then Rich made clear to the jury, all the things that Yim had failed to do in her current job position with regard to devising corrective measures for improving safety. She had never requested pedestrian accident data from TASAS. She had never sent a Traffic Field Investigator out to the Ludeman, Santa Helena or San Diego intersections, to do safety investigations, even after fatal accidents or catastrophic injuries at those locations. [Nor had her predecessor.] There had been no routine monitoring of those intersections, no installation of traffic calming devises, in fact, she had not implemented any improvements whatsoever, during her tenure as Senior Traffic Engineer. Nor had she even sought to familiarize herself with known studies, theories or materials, common to traffic engineers throughout the country, so that she would be a better educated and more responsible and proactive, Senior Traffic Engineer. He made the point that 3% of all traffic accidents are pedestrian accidents, yet they account for 22% of all traffic accident fatalities.

The Importance of Pedestrian Counts

During the course of the trial, it was also surprisingly revealed that what Caltrans had not done, was pay attention to Ludeman Lane in the form of counting the actual number of pedestrians that were crossing it—or had crossed it—during the previous 10 year period, or anytime at all really. Nor had they pulled the accident statistics to see how many pedestrian accidents there had been.  This was also true with regard to the intersections of Santa Helena and San Diego as well—the only exception had been Millwood—which had been specifically requested by the City of Milbrae. The numbers that the FHWA Study paid very close attention to were pedestrian counts. When asked about the failure to do this, Ms. Yim testified, “We don’t monitor accident locations like that.”

Lack of Pedestrian Accident Investigations: 

Rich more firmly established through Caldwell’s testimony—that despite 4 accidents for 10 years prior to Emily’s accident, which included fatalities at each intersection—not one single pedestrian accident investigation had ever been done at San Diego, Ludeman Lane or Santa Helena.  Furthermore, not even after Emily’s accident had Ms. Yim asked Caldwell to go out and investigate Ludeman Lane. Nor was he specifically asked to read the police report involving the accident.  Nor was he asked to pull the pedestrian accident data for Ludeman Lane.  The person who would have most likely been asked to do that—for that particular stretch of road—would have been him. However, when asked by Rich, was this had been so, Caldwell responded, “There are a lot of accidents that happen. Typically, accidents are not singled out in the manner you are suggesting.”

Traffic Accident Investigations, Project Approval & Funding Requests: 

Ms. Yim on the other hand was more reluctant to admit that that pedestrian accident investigations had not been done, testifying that accident investigations had, in fact, been done at those intersections, and even at Ludemen, but had not met the necessary criteria to install a traffic signal or anything else.  She also stated that she didn’t have the ability or authority on her own to simply remove a crosswalk, and that there was a strict process that must be adhered to as outlined by the California Vehicle Code. It was interesting to note that though her Traffic Field Investigator confirmed that process, he stated that ultimately she had the ability and the financial resources available to her to authorize it to be done as long as it didn’t go over $25,000.  It was called a “day labor limit.” She had made many such authorizations in the past.

Ms. Yim further testified that when an accident report, or Table C, was sent to a local Caltrans office, the Senior Traffic Engineer—such as herself—would request a Traffic Field Investigator to conduct an inspection or investigation. This would involve a review of photo logs for the area, usually an on-site visit and a review of the accident history of that location. Then the Traffic Field Investigator would make an engineering determination based on his training and judgment regarding what he had seen, and his application of Caltran’s policies and procedures. If he or she made a determination that something needed to be done, a recommendation would then be passed onto the Senior Traffic Engineer and reviewed by them. This process involved seeing if the recommendations made met the existing criteria and policies set out/outlined by Caltrans—otherwise referred to as “warrants.” All Districts had to compete statewide with the other 11 districts for funding, and there was only a certain amount of funding or resources allocated each year for safety projects. Furthermore, there were a lot of projects competing for funding. That was the reason the Headquarters had established strict criteria for the districts to follow. The warrants/criteria needed to be reviewed for each proposed project, and then compared to the recommendations made, to see if the improvements met the necessary requirements. If the project met the required criteria, then it was submitted to Headquarters. Headquarters would have to measure it against statewide priorities and funding requests, in order to make the determination to proceed with the project or not.  Even if an area had a high accident rate and proposed improvements were submitted to Headquarters, there could easily be more dangerous areas or intersections somewhere else in the State that would necessitate funding first—because there was not unlimited funding. So, just by looking at one intersection, without having data for and comparing it against other intersections, it was not possible to draw a conclusion that changes needed be made to that one intersection. In her words—referring to Ludeman Lane:

“This may not sound well, but this particular intersection is actually of no difference than many other intersections on El Camino Real and on other state conventional highways. As I mentioned earlier, it did not make it to the top of the list as high-concentration location—which means we have other locations that have higher accident rate. Yes, it came to our attention. We pulled the accident data. We see that there are a few accidents here and there. Okay. Unfortunately, I have to say it did not qualify or does not meet the criteria to warrant a signal.”

Therefore Rich asked the following pointed question, “Are you telling this jury that you or someone ordered an or requested an accident investigation related to pedestrian safety arising out of one of these pedestrian accidents or deaths at Ludeman Lane before Emily Liou was hurt?” Ms. Yim replied that she didn’t remember if the investigations were done specifically for pedestrian accidents—but they were done for “traffic” accidents.  With that statement it became more fully apparent that Caltrans did not recognize “pedestrian accidents” separately from “traffic accidents.” This was to become a highly significant distinction later on in the trial.

Pedestrian Accident Rate v. Traffic Accident Rate

Not only did Caltrans not have the total number of pedestrians crossing at any intersection, they also did not monitor the number of pedestrian accidents at an intersection either, even though TASAS collected that specific pedestrian information and provided them with the ability to get those numbers.

To this end, Rich clarified these very points in a series of questions he posed to Ms Yim. In his words, “The State of California has the information with respect to pedestrian injuries on its road ways? One of the ways to know whether or not pedestrians are being injured at a given place on the road way is to look at TASAS and pull out pedestrian accident information? If you wanted to know specifically how many pedestrians are being injured or killed at Ludeman Lane, that information is there?” To which Ms. Yim replied, “Well, that is if we going there and get the TASAS for each single location and manually analyze each location to do a comparison. But we have monitoring program and reports generated by headquarter which has a criteria to identify high-concentration accident locations. And we receive those monitoring reports.”  She was no doubt referring to Table C Reports. The problem with that statement was however, that Table C did not specify pedestrian accidents. Additionally, there were “Fatality Reports” that were distributed to the Senior Engineers—that were required reading—however, many pedestrian accidents were not fatalities but still resulted in catastrophic injuries.  Therefore, those accidents reports were most likely often overlooked as well as the pedestrians who had “simply” been catastrophically injured, yet not killed.

Whether Caltran’s engineers were aware of the FHWA study or not, the failure to recognize the necessity and the critical importance of the number of pedestrians crossing at their intersections, and the number of those being killed or injured there, was quite obvious and highly significant. If they had seriously considered pedestrians, as they professed to do, it would have been quite evident by their making even some attempt make a determination as to those numbers. On the contrary, it seems as if pedestrians were being systematically ignored, and it was highly apparent to the jury, that this was in fact the case.

The Wrong Numbers: 

Key to arriving at a Pedestrian Accident Rate for Ludemen Lane, and the integral importance of obtaining pedestrian counts for that process, was in throwing a light on the types of numbers that the FHWA study utilized and needed, in order to arrive at a pedestrian accident rate.  Through the use of exhibits displaying graphs contained within the Study and the Synthesis, Rich illustrated that that a pedestrian accident rate was arrived at by placing the total number of accidents at an intersection—as a numerator, over, the total number of pedestrians crossing through that intersection—the denominator, over a 10 year period—the period of time utilized by the Study.  An accident rate is arrived at by dividing the numerator by the denominator to arrive at a percentage.  As part of this process, Rich first clarified the numbers Caltrans used when arrived at a Traffic Accident Rate. Rich had Ms. Yim verify the way they did that by asking, “The accident rate measures a given number of cars passing through an intersection as compared to a given number of accidents, right? So, for total accidents, for example, you are looking at the number of total accidents versus the number of total cars; right?” Ms. Yim replied “Yes.” Rich continued, “So, if you wanted to know how many pedestrians are involved in accidents—not talking about total accidents, okay? And not talking about fatal accidents. Not talking about injury accidents. Or property damage accidents. I'm simply talking about pedestrian accidents. So, if you wanted to know what the pedestrian accident rate is at a given place, and in order to do a Pedestrian Accident Rate like the Traffic Accident Rate, you would need to know the given number of pedestrian accidents and the number of pedestrians crossing at a particular location. And the only way to find out the number of pedestrians crossing at a given location would be to do a pedestrian count?” Surprisingly Ms. Yim replied, “We don’t do studies like that—we don’t normally do engineering studies for pedestrian accident rates.”  To which Rich replied, ““Exactly. You don’t monitor locations like this by taking into account how many pedestrians are crossing the street. At that point she said: “Well, I’m not the one who set up the monitoring programs at headquarters. So, I don’t know what thinking went into that process.” So then Rich attempted to explain to Ms. Yim, how to arrive at a true pedestrian accident rate: “I'm asking you if we can agree that that is what a pedestrian accident rate would be—If you are just doing the pedestrian accident rate, you want to measure the number of pedestrians which are crossing with the number that are being injured; right?” Yim answered, “If you apply the same logic as the vehicle accident rate, it might be.”

This systemic failure to properly arrive at a pedestrian accident rate was more clearly revealed in Rich’s cross examination of Caldwell. “There is no information that tells you how many pedestrian crossings there were at Ludeman Lane during the 10 years prior to Emily’s accident, is there? Caldwell answered, “No.” Rich continued, “If you wanted to do a pedestrian count to find out how many pedestrians were being injured or killed at Ludeman during the previous 10 years and compare that to the number of people who have crossed Ludeman, you don’t have that information do you?” Caldwell again answered, ‘No. When we do traffic counts though, pedestrians aren’t often counted. That number could be projected but an actual count, no. We usually go by the million number of vehicles. [Not pedestrian crossings] I have never seen a calculation done as you are describing, but it could theoretically be done.”

The startling truth of the matter was that Caltrans never attempted to arrive at a true pedestrian accident rate. Specifically with regard to Ludeman Lane, they had never done a pedestrian count there, but rather, they had only simply looked at the 4 accidents that had occurred over a 10 year period, and compared that to the 90 million vehicles that had travelled through that intersection during that period of time. The resulting percentage was so infinitesimally small, that is can now easily be understood, how Ludeman Lane was never flagged as a “high concentration accident area” that would ever have generated much concern. For all of its sophisticated stats, reports and criteria, Caltrans had gotten the numbers wrong.

Doing the Math:

Once Rich had established how the Study defined a pedestrian accident rate—and established the importance of knowing the number of pedestrians crossing an intersection over a given number of years, and established that Caltrans did not in fact have those numbers for Ludeman Lane or any other intersection for that matter, he revealed that his firm had had an official pedestrian count done at Ludeman. It was determined that Ludeman had a daily pedestrian count of 70 pedestrians crossing that intersection. Then Rich set about showing the court what the pedestrian accident rate was for Ludeman. The Study utilized a 10 year period of time as a measurement, so in calculating the pedestrian accident rate for Ludeman Lane, Rich did likewise. The shocking truth therefore at the end of all these calculations, was that based on pedestrian crossings of 70, the pedestrian crash rate at Ludeman Lane, for the ten years before March of 2006, was 21.6 times higher than the pedestrian crash rate that led to the recommendation not to put marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections.


Defense Position


Caltrans Defense: 

The Study

The Caltrans defense lawyers and witnesses, made all the points that you would expect them to make, starting with the studies and the Senior Traffic Engineer’s lack of knowledge of them. Ms. Yim explained to the jury that she had never seen the FHWA study before, nor the Caltrans synthesis. Furthermore, Caltrans employees don’t refer to studies when they make decisions, they only refer to the policy manual when they make decisions. She stated that there are so many studies out there and they are all reviewed by the Headquarters Research Unit and Policy unit, whose job it is to review the studies—to screen them, and to determine which ones are applicable to be turned into a policy—because there could be guidelines and studies out there that conflict with each other. If the engineers were to get hold of all those studies and start implementing the recommendations in those studies, they could be creating a lot of inconsistency for the State. That is why Caltrans has different units set up in Headquarters to do just that, to make sure that they reviewed all the studies themselves, and made sure that they came up with the policies that would work best for the State—then the policies were implemented—not the guidelines. So, if she had “happened” to see this FHWA study before it was presented to her at trial, and if she felt that she had a concern about the recommendations, she would have gone to Headquarters and asked them are they were looking into this study—were they planning to turn it into a policy. She would not just have taken the study and run with it. Furthermore, she said that if the study were something that Headquarters wanted the engineers to seriously consider and implement, they would have turned it into a policy—or at least have had a wider distribution of it. The fact that she had not ever seen it inferred to her that it was not something they had distributed to all of the districts, or something they wanted the engineers to seriously consider. She said it must have been something that Caltrans had done and was retained at a Headquarters or at corporate level; but it was not something that they had wanted widely distributed—the purpose being, to not confuse the engineers.

Caltrans Monitoring Systems: 

The defense team also made sure that they detailed the process by which changes were made to the roadways, stressing that all engineering decisions were based upon well known policies and procedures, starting with the process by which Caltrans was notified of a possible problem area. One of the best ways Caltrans believed it best to monitor their roadways, was through their employees—there were many employees continually out doing maintenance, doing traffic studies, working on construction sites, etc., and  if they were to see a problem location, they would report it. Furthermore, if there were problem areas causing concern, there would have been citizen of complaints from local agencies such as the police departments, fire departments or city governments. No-one or no agency ever called Caltrans and complained about Ludeman Lane. So therefore, Caltrans never ignored any complaints and just did nothing. Nobody complained according to Caltrans—according to Caltrans. Then there was also the matter of their computer monitoring system—TASAS—which would have alerted them had there been a problem with Ludeman Lane. It never had.

Ludemen Lane: Substantial Improvements

The defense team was also quick to point out that there were no visibility problems at the intersection, and that Emily Liou and the driver of the car could have easily seen each other—even at night. Furthermore, it was not true that there had not been any improvements made to it and that these improvements constituted what was referred in the studies as the “substantial improvements” necessary for pedestrian safety.  There were Ped Xing markings about 8-10 feet long on the roadway, which were 350 feet from the crosswalk. There was a green sign at the intersection that said, “Ludeman Lane,” serving to alert drivers of the presence of an intersection. There was a yellow diamond shaped sign which has a silhouette of a person walking across a crosswalk—adjacent to the crosswalk—warning drivers that there were pedestrians present at the location. And finally, due to the resurfacing of the crosswalk in 2003, when someone was within 150-175 feet from the crosswalk, the actual lines of the crosswalk were easily visible. Rich was quick to point out however, that these were hardly the “traffic calming measures” referred to in the Study or the Synthesis, so therefore, despite all of Caltran’s protestations, a marked crosswalk still remained at the uncontrolled intersection of Ludeman Lane and El Camino Real.



Answering the Questions


When closing arguments had finally been made by both sides, the jury had quite a few questions that needed to be answered in order to arrive at the truth: Why had Emily Liou’s tragic accident happened?  Had Ms. Yim been too inexperienced for her Senior Traffic Engineering position?  Had she been derelict in her duties, or had she all too well followed the policies and procedures set in place by Caltrans? Had she really known about the Study and had simply ignored it or did Caltran’s fail to impress upon their own employees the importance of their own studies—failing simply to follow through with their own recommendations—or perhaps they were just giving lip service to the notion of pedestrian safety? There seemed to be a rather shocking, rampant, systemic failure to recognize pedestrians. The startling truth of the matter therefore became quite evident with regard to how easily and how often pedestrians were overlooked, or even considered, because minimal effort was ever made to obtain critical information regarding them. This was evidenced by Caltrans failure to obtain or specify the following:

1. The number of pedestrian accidents occurring at a location;

2. The number of pedestrians injured at a location;

3. The number of pedestrians killed at a location;

4. Pedestrian accidents were not differentiated from total accidents in the Table C reports. There was no separate category for pedestrian accidents like there were for Property Damage Only, Fatal Only, Injury Only, Fatal + Injury.

5. Pedestrian counts were not systematically or routinely done;

6. The number of pedestrian accidents [at an intersection] were not compared to the total number of pedestrians crossing an intersection—so there was an inability to arrive at an accurate pedestrian accident rate for a location.

Subsequently, as a result, there was an inherent inability to identify repetitive pedestrian accident trends or any method in place by which to identify high concentration pedestrian collision locations. In opening statements, Caltrans had said that engineers look for patterns or repeated problems along their roadways, to alert them that they need to investigate a location and possibly make changes, and they hadn’t “seen anything at Ludeman Lane that was a red flag.” Rich repeatedly illustrated, that they didn’t see it because nothing in their monitoring system was set up to alert them to anything specifically related to pedestrians. This lack of investigation into pedestrian accidents was inadvertently explained by Ms. Yim in testimony when she said--undoubtedly failing to recognize the extreme importance of what she was saying—“And Headquarters set the criteria that, if the accident rate reaches those numbers, then it will show up as a location for the district to investigate.” This was quite a significant statement for her to make because she had testified earlier in trial, that Caltrans didn't do "engineering studies for pedestrian accident rates." The truth of the matter was, they didn't do them correctly--according to the process specified in the study--so how would those crosswalks at intersections that were uncontrolled ever show up as locations for the district to investigate? They were dangerous and they were deadly, and Caltrans had absolutely no way of identifying them.

Through skillful cross examination, Rich was able to expose a fundamental flaw at the heart all of Caltrans’ policies and procedures. His succinct summation was this, “You can never adequately monitor pedestrian safety if you're not actually monitoring pedestrians. And Caltrans has never systematically measured pedestrian crossing rates." Furthermore, this flaw set in motion a lengthy chain reaction which ultimately led to the highly noticeable lack of improvements at marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections—creating subsequent injuries and fatalities. Failure to do pedestrian counts, failure to determine the number and types of pedestrian accidents, failure to monitor intersections for safety concerns, failure to conduct engineering studies in order to determine pedestrian accident rates, all suggested that Caltrans seemed rather unconcerned about the plight of pedestrians on their streets and roadways. It seemed quite evident that Caltrans knew of the FHWA Study, as they had incorporated sections of it within their own publication. It also seems entirely plausible that “Headquarters” failed to sufficiently impress upon their own engineers the importance of the study. Caltrans inexplicably failed to recognize that pedestrians and pedestrian data were integral and absolutely essential to the accuracy of all of their sophisticated mathematical formulas, computations and statistics.

Consequently, that oversight had residual repercussions. High Concentration Collision Locations or HCCL’s were not identified—for pedestrians.  Critical reports were not generated nor distributed to Caltrans Engineers—for pedestrians.  Accidents were not investigated and crucial safety measures were not identified—for pedestrians. As a result, it was virtually impossible to meet the established criteria necessary for obtaining funding approval for safety projects, which in turn, led to an utter failure to implement those life protecting safety measures—thereby ensuring the likelihood of future accidents, injuries and fatalities. There was basically a deep rooted, fatal flaw within Caltrans—as well as a gross miscalculation in judgment and a continual compounding of error that rendered pedestrian safety almost an impossibility—regardless of what Caltrans’ publications, directives, or mouthpieces said to the contrary. Unacknowledged, this flaw would always dramatically distort the guidelines, priorities, policies, procedures and criteria they had in place—absolutely corrupting any necessary sequence of events—and inevitably, ultimately, and repeatedly produce tragic and catastrophic outcomes.


Verdict & Aftermath


On July 3, 2010, the Jury reached a verdict of $12.2 million for Emily. However, that amount was reduced by 20%--her degree of fault for the accident--the Jury determined because she was wearing dark clothing and not exercising due care with regard to her own safety. The driver of the car was also found to be 30% at fault; Caltrans--it was determined--was 50% at fault due to placing a marked crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection, completely failing to monitor pedestrian safety, or making any attempt whatsoever to study the safety risks at that intersection. Caltrans blamed Emily for the accident, and they blamed the driver, and refused to take any responsibility for their own intersection. The Jury just didn't see it that way.

The outcome of the case was highly significant because it was one of the very first times that Caltrans had had such a verdict against them for a pedestrian traffic accident. Because of this verdict, Caltrans has had to rethink and re-evaluate the very serious issue of pedestrian traffic accidents and pedestrian safety. Rich had this to say about the trial and the success of this lawsuit:

"I felt like we were one step ahead of them the entire time. We put them very much on the defensive--virtually the whole trial. We were really well prepared. Doug and I worked really well together and we were like-minded in how we were going to approach things. The case just went on smoothly. You look at trial days and you try to win more than you lose, and in cases that I've won, you usually have to win most of them. In this case, I feel like we won most days--even days that the defense was "on," we were able to cross examine the witnesses in ways that made us feel good about it. It was just one of those cases where it was evident it was all going well, and you kept your fingers crossed. It had been such a difficult case in the beginning, but once we got to court, logic was winning and the Jury was interested and it just kept going well. It is difficult to win these types of cases, but as a result of this verdict, it established some things that needed to be established, to make it easier to win these types of cases moving forward. It is not every day that Caltrans gets hit with this type of verdict; and when it does, the legal community sorts of sits up and takes notice. My Mom always quoted a man named Joseph Campbell who said to 'Follow your bliss.' And this is my bliss.... I get to help people. I get to learn incredibly interesting things. I get to persuade and think critically and--most importantly--employ empathy, respect and kindness every day."

As a result of this trial, Rich and law partner Doug were awarded the 2011 San Francisco Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. Rich's final comments on the case were these, "The comingling of cars and people is so potentially dangerous that we as a society, especially one that is trying to reduce our reliance on oil and increase health, that we have to include pedestrians and cyclists in the triad of transportation, and that means making sure that everybody is safe and as safe as can be--to the extent that that costs money for facilities, that is unquestionably money worth spending."

Rich and the lawyers at his firm handle the following types of cases in San Francisco, the Bay Area and all of northern California: personal injury, pedestrian traffic accidents, vehicle accidents, catastrophic injuries, medical malpractice, dangerous drugs & medical devices, defective products, nursing home abuse, cycling accidents, public transportation injuries.