The family of a 12-year-old boy who was struck by a vehicle while riding on the 2500 block of Park Boulevard has filed a $17 million claim with the City of Palo Alto for negligent design of the bike route on the road.
Sebastian Lerrick suffered a traumatic brain injury after being struck by a Nissan Quest driven by Luis Felipe Hau of Sunnyvale on Nov. 5, 2012, at 7:19 a.m., according to a police report. Attending paramedics found Lerrick with a leg and wrist fracture, a broken jaw, broken teeth and brain swelling. The boy was wearing a helmet, according to the report.
The vehicle struck Lerrick from behind, breaking his bicycle frame in two and damaging the Nissan's front bumper, hood and windshield. Parts of Lerrick's bike and his school supplies were strewn across the road.
Hau told police the crash occurred as he was driving south on Park, through a construction area, on his way to East Palo Alto to pick up supplies for his employer, Izzy's Bagels. He said the sun was in his eyes, and he was driving between 25 and 35 miles per hour. He did not see the bicyclist but heard the crash. He noticed his windshield was broken and immediately stopped to investigate, the report stated.
Lerrick, a Hoover Elementary School student, had been riding his bike south on Park but had left the bicycle lane to get around the construction, according to the report. Hau's Quest struck Lerrick as the boy veered back into the bike lane. The impact flipped Lerrick onto Hau's hood and windshield.
Lerrick was taken to Stanford Hospital in critical condition and was transferred to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital's pediatric intensive-care unit. He still suffers traumatic brain injuries, resulting in physical, cognitive, psychological and emotional issues, according to the family's claim.
A toxicology report of Hau's blood found that he had methamphetamine in his blood at the time of the collision, according to the police report.
Hau told police during questioning that he had a previous addiction to methamphetamine, but he had not taken any in a while. He gave police a blood sample. He said he had been in a bad car accident some time back, and he had been in a coma for a while.
Israel Rind, owner of Izzy's Bagels, said that Hau was off the clock when the accident occurred and was not driving for Izzy's. He said Izzy's has its own driver and its own company truck and would not send Hau for supplies or have an employee to use his own vehicle to pick up supplies. He suspected that a language barrier may have caused confusion when police interviewed Hau about the accident.
Palo Alto Police Agent Cindy Kono on Feb. 13 recommended that Hau be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and causing injury. Police also recommended that Hau be prosecuted on counts of driving at an unsafe speed and driving with a suspended license and causing injury.
Cindy Hendrickson, Santa Clara County supervising deputy district attorney, said Hau has not yet been charged in the incident. The lengthy investigation into the crash is typical because investigators and the DA's office want to make sure nothing has been overlooked, she said.
"Before a final decision we meet with the family of the victim. An investigation followup Agent Kono did was completed in the last day or so," she said Wednesday. "We need to have those meetings with family before we can announce a decision."
The $17 million claim states that "a substantial factor that contributed to this incident is the City of Palo Alto's negligent design, construction, maintenance, signing, operation and control of the roadways."
Attorney Todd Emanuel filed the claim on April 19. If the city rejects the claim, the claimant can proceed to file a lawsuit.
George Ellard, who is representing Lerrick through Emanuel's law firm, has not yet returned a call seeking comment.
Hau could not be reached for comment.