Family of child killed in 2011 sues East Palo Alto

Sioreli Torres Zamora was struck in a crosswalk on her way to school

The parents of 6-year-old Sioreli Torres Zamora, an East Palo Alto girl killed in a crosswalk while walking to school on Sept. 28, have filed a lawsuit against the City of East Palo Alto and the driver, Fern Alisha White-Parker.

The wrongful-death lawsuit was filed May 2 in San Mateo County Superior Court on behalf of Sioreli's parents, Guadalupe Zamora Medina and Gabriel Torres Aguilar. It alleges that the city maintained a dangerous condition on public property that caused negligent infliction of emotional distress on the parents. The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages.

The complaint alleges that Sioreli's mother, Guadalupe Zamora Medina, suffered negligent infliction of emotional distress when she witnessed her daughter's injuries and saw the little girl dying in front of her.

Zamora Medina has continued to suffer "great physical and mental pain and suffering," and has needed medical and professional care as a result of the incident, and will continue to incur medical expenses for an indefinite period of time, according to the complaint.

The City Council voted unanimously on April 3 to reject a claim the family filed in March.

Sioreli was on her way to Green Oaks Academy with her mother and siblings on the morning of Sept. 28 when she was struck by White-Parker's vehicle. Her mother and two younger sisters were just a few steps away.

The same crosswalk at Gloria Way and Bay Road was also the scene of another serious accident six months prior to Sioreli's death. An 8-year-old boy was struck there and received injuries that put him in a body cast.

A 2010 city-commissioned pedestrian-safety report published just one year prior to Sioreli's death noted the Bay Road and Gloria Way intersection had the most vehicle-pedestrian accidents in the city -- four -- between 2005 and 2009.

Four of the city's most dangerous intersections for pedestrians are along Bay Road, according to the study by the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies.

White-Parker, a schoolteacher, was driving to her job at Costano Elementary School when the accident occurred. She told police at the time that she was blinded by sun glare on her windshield. The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office announced on April 30 that it would not press charges against White-Parker.

Based on a 2008 California Office of Traffic Safety report of safety rankings of California cities, East Palo Alto ranked third out of 97 California cities in the same population group for the "number of collisions involving pedestrians," with first being the worst and 97th the best.

The UC-Berkeley study suggested the city consider establishing 15 mph school zones, and include criteria for installing crosswalk enhancements, such as flashing beacons, in-roadway warning lights, or in-roadway pedestrian signs at crosswalks; and hire or identify traffic-safety officers that would be dedicated to a local school during the morning and afternoon drop-off and pick-up periods.

On Nov. 29, the East Palo Alto City Council voted not to add a stop sign at the intersection, but the council approved flashing LED signs and pavement warnings for drivers to slow down.

City Attorney Kathleen Kane was out of the office until Monday and could not be reached for comment.


Like this comment
Posted by danger
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 4, 2012 at 11:57 am

The government essentially admitted this was a risky intersection when they did not file charges against the car driver.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Some money hungry lawyers found the family and are leading this on. I feel sure the family have been talked into this rather than them leading the case.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Really, Resident? Why must they be influenced by money-hungry lawyers instead of their own sense of loss, anger & devastation? I predicted that this would happen the same day of the accident. I also saw how the Latino residents of EPA protested to the police about the driver not getting arrested. They may have been wrong about the legal specifics of arrest, but their feelings were legit. I support this family's lawsuit.

EPA's had to pay through the nose for a variety of mistakes & this is one of them, imo. Our city has greatly improved & for the most part, I approve of the City Council's actions. I understand why City Council rejected the family's suit, but I still don't understand why a stop sign wasn't added, post-haste - after the body cast injury of the young boy.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Yes, really.

I don't for a minute think that a poorly educated latino family who can't speak English are likely to think law suit on their own.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the pain they are going through and I think that now they are the victims a second time as some money hungry lawyers show them sympathy and a tale of how to get rich quick.

Sorry for sounding so hard hearted but I am full of scepticism here.

This tale gets sadder all the time.

I do agree that there should have been better police monitoring on the day of the accident though as there had been another accident in the vicinity earlier. Better safety improvements would also be a good idea.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Respectfully, I disagree. From what I know, there were no lawyers involved, but Latino community organizers. I know a number of poorly educated immigrants who think lawsuit all on their own - I've met them. It doesn't take that much education in a community where you're the majority demographic to consider suggestions made or think of it on your own & fairly quickly find an attorney.

I can't even imagine what this mother is going through. Like you, I wish things had been done differently. If the family wins, I hope the money can assist them in getting the help that they need, especially the mother, who is suffering tremendously. The latter info has been in the community pipeline for some time.

Maybe it'll take a money-hungry attorney to get the city to fix that intersection as a result of this lawsuit - that remains to be seen. I know that lawyers exploit these situations, but I'm just not convinced that's the major play at hand here. Regardless of the attorney, the city is accountable, as is the driver.

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Posted by Reality
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I hold my kid's hand every time I cross the street and position myself in between him and the car even if we have to switch places in a 4 way intersection. Also I don't leave the curb unless I get eye contact with the driver and they motion me to cross. My parents did the same with me when I was a kid. I see alot of parents allowing their kids to run ahead of them and I dont understand why.

Like this comment
Posted by question-
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm

My sincere condolences to the family.

Hmmmm, anyone-
Can you please post info of Latino and other undeserved minorities community activists @EPA?
Info of organizations may be interested in cases of EPA kids learning outside EPA shortchanged compared to their non EPA peers?

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2012 at 9:27 am

I can see suing the driver and I was surprised she wasn't arrested. I can't see suing the city - that appears to just be going after nearby deep pockets - government/taxpayers - except I guess in this case they aren't all that deep...

Like this comment
Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2012 at 9:25 am

I blame the mother for this one. She's the one who was supposed to be watching the kid. You can't expect everyone else to be watching out for your child, it's up to you, especially if you were the one escorting her to school to make sure she's safe. The jury will probably give them an award, because they feel sorry for them.

Like this comment
Posted by Tired of the bs
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 6, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I hate to say it, but I agree with some guy. This is a tragic accident, but the driver is not the only one to blame. That roadway is way too busy to allow a child to cross on their own. Mom was busy with two other kids and most likely wasn't paying attention. If a child darts out in front of a car, even in a cross walk, the driver cannot be held completely at fault.

I would never cross the street at that intersection, there is a cross walk with a stop sign two blocks north, the same direction they were traveling. They do not need to put a stop sign there, they need to remove the cross walk. There really is no reason to cross there, there is a controlled intersection one block south and a stop sign two blocks to the north and mostly houses in between. Having a cross walk there creates a false sense of security.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm

It would be good to know how much of any settlement the lawyer demands
30%-60% or more?

Lots of unemployed and under employed lawyers these days--they are desperate.

In reality the judgment is based upon net worth and future earnings of the deceased--in the case of a 6 year old with now earning history-this will be very small if the plaintiffs prevail.

The EPAPD say the driver committed no violation and was not at fault so it will be a very,very poor case to litigate for the plaintiffs.

The case will bring up the issue of responsible child care by the parents-

-did they have responsible control of the child-etc?

We need to adopt a policy that the loser in civil cases has to pay the costs of the defense + all court costs.

Like this comment
Posted by caring resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I'm sorry for the lost of this little girl. My prayers go out to the family and also to the driver who has to live with this. I'm not going to say mom was at fault, but PARENTS, PLEASE WATCH YOUR CHILDREN! I drive down Bay Rd quite frequently, pedestrians are jumping out of nowhere. The police should be out there giving them tickets. They're not always in the crosswalks. Like someone else had commented, get eye contact with the driver before crossing. Palo Alto School district teaches their children about bike & pedestrian safety, maybe Ravenswood District should adopt this program. TEACH THE CHILDREN

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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