An East Palo Alto driver who fatally hit a second-grader in 2011 filed a counter-lawsuit against the child's parents on May 6, according to papers in San Mateo County Superior Court.
Fern Alisha White-Parker filed the cross-complaint against the parents of 6-year-old Sioreli Torres Zamora and the City of East Palo Alto in response to a lawsuit filed last year by the parents, Guadalupe Zamora Medina and Gabriel Torres Aguilar.
The counter-suit claims Sioreli's parents and the city were careless and negligent, which contributed to the accident and the child's death.
Sioreli's parents filed a lawsuit against White-Parker and the City of East Palo Alto on May 2, 2012. That lawsuit alleged the city maintained a dangerous condition on public property that caused negligent infliction of emotional distress on the parents. Sioreli's mother witnessed her daughter's death.
White-Parker was driving to her job at Costano Elementary School when she struck and killed Sioreli on Sept. 28, 2011. The girl was on her way to school at Green Oaks Academy at the time. White-Parker told police she was blinded by sun glare on her windshield. Sioreli was 5 to 6 feet into the crosswalk on Bay Road at Gloria Way and a few steps ahead of her mother and two younger siblings. She died at the scene, according to police.
The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office announced on April 30, 2012, that it would not press charges against White-Parker. Her counter-suit claims if she is found culpable for Sioreli's death, any liability would be "passive, secondary and derivative" of the primary and greater fault of the parents and city. The city and parents should reimburse her for any judgment or settlement, according to court papers.
A lawyer for the City of East Palo Alto said the city would ask for a summary judgment, which would decide if White-Parker has proven her case without need for a jury trial, according to court papers.
East Palo Alto residents complained about the Bay and Gloria intersection after Sioreli's death. An 8-year-old boy was seriously injured after being struck six months earlier in the same crosswalk.
A 2010 pedestrian-safety report noted the Bay and Gloria intersection had the most accidents involving a car and pedestrian in the city -- four -- between 2005 and 2009.
Residents and parents demanded a stop sign be installed after Sioreli's death.
Four of the city's most dangerous intersections for pedestrians are along Bay, according to the study by the University of California at Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies. The city should consider establishing 15 mph school zones, installing crosswalk enhancements such as flashing beacons, warning lights or pedestrian signs in the road at crosswalks, and hiring or identifying traffic-safety officers who would be dedicated to a local school during the morning and afternoon drop-off and pick-up periods, according to the Berkeley study.
The East Palo Alto City Council voted on Nov. 29, 2011, not to add a stop sign at the intersection, but the council approved flashing LED signs and pavement warnings to slow drivers.
A jury trial on the civil lawsuits is scheduled to start Oct. 15.