A 12-year-old boy who was critically injured on a Palo Alto bicycle boulevard last November has filed a lawsuit against the City of Palo Alto, its contractor, the driver who struck him, Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels (the driver's employer), and others, according to court papers.
The lawsuit was filed under the name "Sebastian L." on Wednesday, Aug. 28 in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The boy's father filed the suit on his son's behalf after the city rejected an April $17 million claim. The suit asks for an unspecified amount to include medical expenses and continuing care for the boy, who returned to school this fall but has had a long road to recovery with continuing physical, cognitive and emotional issues, his attorney, Todd Emanuel, said.
Sebastian, a Hoover Elementary School student, was struck by a Nissan Quest on Nov. 5, 2012, at 7:19 a.m. while riding south on the 2500 block of Park Boulevard. He was wearing a helmet and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Attending paramedics found the boy had a leg and wrist fracture, a broken jaw, broken teeth and brain swelling, according to a police report.
Luis Felipe Hau of Sunnyvale was driving south on Park when he struck the boy from behind, breaking the bicycle frame in two. The boy was thrown onto the windshield before landing in the road, according to police.
Hau told police that the sun was in his eyes and that he had been driving between 25 and 35 miles per hour. He did not see the bicyclist but heard the crash, and he stopped at the scene, according to the police report.
Hau's blood had a trace amount of methamphetamine at the time of the collision, according to a toxicology report. In July, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office declined to file criminal charges against him for driving under the influence and causing injury. The circumstances of the crash did not add up to a winnable case under the law, said Cindy Hendrickson, supervising deputy district attorney. Hau did not have enough methamphetamine in his system to have impaired his driving, she said. He still faces a misdemeanor charge for driving with a suspended license.
The lawsuit alleges negligence and premises liability against the city and its contractor, O'Grady Paving, Inc. of Mountain View. It claims the defendants did not provide a safe path on the roadway and did not offer a safe alternative for the bicyclist to ride to school. The city and contractor failed to have proper signage that would have alerted the bicyclist to the road's dangers, and the city did not conduct inspections of the area to make sure it was safe, the suit alleges.
The suit names Hau and vehicle owner, Rangel Hau, as defendants. The company for which Hau works, Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels, is also named as a defendant. Hau had told police that he was on an errand for Izzy's, but the store's owner, Israel Rind told the Weekly in July 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 on an errand or have an employee use his own vehicle to do so.
Hau's license had been suspended for nonpayment of a fine at the time of the accident. As car owner and employer, Rangel Hau and Izzy's should have known that Luis Hau did not have a valid driver's license, according to court papers.
Emanuel said Thursday that the defendants have not yet been served with the lawsuit.
Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit so she could not comment.