San Francisco Muni Hit with Wrongful Death Suit

Surviving Spouse Seeks Focus on Public Safety

SAN FRANCISCO, May 24, 2011 – Dr. Theodore Glaza, the husband of Scott Whitsett, late yesterday filed a wrongful death lawsuit (Case No. CGC-11-511170) in San Francisco Superior Court against the City and County of San Francisco (Muni) and the driver of the 14 Mission bus that killed Whitsett on the morning of Apr. 21, 2010. The suit, filed by John M. Feder of Rouda, Feder, Tietjen & McGuinn of San Francisco and Alisha Louie and Constance Yu of Sideman & Bancroft LLP of San Francisco, accuses Muni of carelessness, negligence, inattention and failure to use reasonable care, resulting in the fatal collision.

“Muni has a terrible safety record, and despite many serious and even fatal accidents each year, it continues to operate in a manner that disregards public safety,” said Feder. “By this lawsuit, Dr. Glaza hopes that Muni will give safety the highest priority so this kind of preventable fatal collision doesn’t rob families of their loved ones.”

On Apr. 21, 2010 at approximately 11 a.m., 49-year-old Whitsett was walking south on Mission near Beale Street and was struck by a Muni bus heading west. The driver, identified in the filing as Kimberly Faye Johnson, was distracted and, according to the complaint, was unwrapping a candy bar when she failed to yield to the pedestrian. Upon noticing the pedestrian, the bus driver mistook the brake pedal for the accelerator and accelerated her bus directly into the victim’s path, striking Whitsett and pinning him between her Muni bus and a second Muni bus, causing Whitsett to fall to the ground. Then, Johnson’s bus proceeded to run over the victim. Whitsett suffered multiple severe injuries, including a head injury, which took his life later that day at San Francisco General Hospital.

Whitsett was a loving husband, supportive friend, talented lawyer and community activist. He had worked full-time for LexisNexis since July 1998.

“We have all read about recent incidents where Muni operators were text messaging while driving, driving at high speeds through underground tunnels with doors open, stopping a bus full of passengers to cash a lottery ticket, and eating while driving. San Franciscans and visitors to our City have a right to expect that Muni drivers will be fully focused on their driving responsibilities and not distracted by personal involvements,” explained Feder. “The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently concluded that Muni has been negligent in responding to pervasive safety problems. Muni claims the PUC citations were politically motivated, but Theodore Glaza knows all too well the high costs of Muni’s safety lapses. It is not enough to simply dismiss the careless drivers who cause injury. Muni must work to create a culture of caution and care throughout its transit system.”

Just last month, on April 13, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded its investigation into the Muni Metro accident at the West Portal station that resulted in 48 injuries. The NTSB faulted the Muni Metro operator and Muni for the Muni’s failure to monitor and enforce safety regulations.

“There have been far too many preventable collisions caused by the Muni. The time for public safety is now,” added Feder.