We now know the identity of the woman dragged and tossed to the tracks by a fancy new Muni train, and her claim seeking payment for medical expenses has been denied.
There have been a few technical snafus with Muni’s self-described “Fleet of the Future” trains, but none generated headlines quite like the dragging of an elderly woman whose hand was trapped in a door at the Embarcadero station. Video of the April 12 incident shows she was indeed dragged and thrown to the tracks. An embarrassed Muni temporarily disabled the rear doors on the new Siemens light-rail train cars, and a perturbed Board of Supervisors withheld $62 million in new funding for the new trains.
We’ve never actually heard from the woman in question, but now she has lawyered up. The San Francisco Examiner reports that Sunset resident Choi Ngor Li has submitted a claim against the city, saying she suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung, fractures to her spine and pelvis, and “other injuries presently undiagnosed.” (Confidentiality laws prevented the hospital from releasing this information at the time.) Li has not spoken to media or made any public statements, but her claim was filed by personal injury law firm Walkup, Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger, the same firm representing the family of the Apple engineer killed in a Tesla autopilot crash.
Despite video of the evidence, her claim has been denied. The Examiner obtained a copy of the rejection notice to the firm, which cites a “lack of information to evaluate whether [San Francisco] is responsible for any damages suffered by your client.” It’s now a pretty safe bet that Li will be suing the city for damages.
City Hall is hardly presenting a united front over Li’s claim being rejected. Sup. Gordon Mar, who represents Li’s district, complained to the Examiner about SFMTA’s “gross lack of safety review” and said of the doors’ malfunction, “It’s just shocking that this wasn’t something that they had identified in a review process.”
Should this end up in court, which again, seems a damn-near certainty, Li’s attorneys would have rather compelling evidence in statements the SFMTA made themselves. When acting director Julie Kirschbaum tried to show NBC Bay Area that the doors’ “sensitive edge” was working properly, Kirschbaum herself got her hand stuck in a door. On Tuesday, she said publicly at an SFMTA board meeting, “Common sense, and more specifically my hand being stuck in the door, told us the door was not working.”
For a personal injury firm that chases ambulances for a living, evidence like that could present an open-and-shut case against the reliability of the new Muni trains’ doors.