The City of East Palo Alto has settled a lawsuit filed by the parents of a 6-year-old girl who was killed in a crosswalk while going to school in 2011.
The parents of Sioreli Torres Zamora settled the lawsuit against East Palo Alto on March 18 for $125,000, according to court documents. San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina has accepted the settlement. The driver who struck and killed Sioreli, schoolteacher Fern Alisha White- Parker, is not part of the settlement.
White-Parker was driving to her job at Costano Elementary School when the accident occurred Sept. 28, 2011. She told police at the time that she was blinded by sun glare on her windshield. The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office did not press charges against White-Parker.
The little girl's mother and two younger siblings were steps away and witnessed her death. Her parents, Guadalupe Zamora Medina and Gabriel Torres Aguilar, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on May 2, 2012, alleging that the city had maintained a dangerous condition on public property that caused negligent infliction of emotional distress on the parents.
Sioreli's mother suffered "negligent infliction of emotional distress" when she witnessed her daughter's injuries and saw the little girl dying in front of her, the suit alleged. She 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 same crosswalk where Sioreli died at Gloria Way and Bay Road was also the scene of another serious accident six months prior to her death. A car struck a 8-year-old boy, who suffered 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, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies.
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, 2012, 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.
White-Parker filed a cross-complaint against the city alleging it was partially responsible for the accident. She asked the court to indemnify her against any settlement and to contribute top any judgment against her. White-Parker agreed to the settlement between the city and Sioreli's parents.