Personal Injury Group Partner Mark Fong and Associate Seema Bhatt represented the wife and children of 78-year-old Cheng Jin Lai, who was killed by a Muni bus while riding his bicycle in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco.
The bus made him lose control of his bicycle, causing him to fall under the rear wheel of the bus and be killed instantly.
The police claimed Mr. Lai caused his own death by turning into the bus, citing an eyewitness. However, at deposition, the eyewitness testified the bus turned into Mr. Lai’s path and, in effect, “cut him off.”
Mark and Seema argued the bus driver violated Muni policies which required its drivers to maintain at least three feet of clearance from other vehicles, including cyclists. They also showed the bus was missing a mandatory wheel guard which prevents people from being run over by the buses’ rear wheels.
Survived by his wife and seven children, Mr. Lai had overcome great adversity during his lifetime. To escape persecution during the Sino-Vietnamese war, he led his family on foot from Vietnam to China, pushing his youngest children in a wheelbarrow.
After retiring from his job as a factory manager in China, Mr. Lai emigrated with his wife to the United States in 1996 to live with their children. Although he lived in low-income housing, he remained the patriarch of his family in the U.S. Tragically, his dream of reuniting his entire family in America was never realized, as the last of his children arrived in the states four months after he was killed. A lifelong cyclist, Mr. Lai was in excellent health when he died.
The family’s wrongful case settled at mediation for $3.25 Million. In honor of Mr. Lai, Minami Tamaki has donated $80,000 of its attorney’s fees to help build a new Community Center in the Ping Yuen Housing Project in San Francisco Chinatown.