Thursday, April 29, 2010

Exploitation CHUTZPAH

I feel very fortunate that the work I currently do from my base of operations in San Francisco's Civic Center has yet to require my driving over the Bay Bridge. The BART and the ferry system have been effective enough that I honestly cannot remember the last time I crossed the Bay Bridge in either direction. This is quite a break when one considers just how many bad-news stories turn up about this bridge one way or another.

One story that attracted considerable attention broke last November after a segment of the causeway had been rerouted in preparation for installing a new span. The new route involved a relatively sharp S-curve; and I suspect that any number of macabre newshounds anticipated that it would be an accident in the making. The rest of us probably realized that any such accident would probably lead to exploitative litigation. According to a report by Joe Garofoli, Staff Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, that is precisely where matters stand this morning:

An attorney for the family of a 56-year-old truck driver who plummeted from the upper deck of the Bay Bridge in November filed a claim against Caltrans on Wednesday, saying there weren't adequate warning signs alerting drivers to the bridge's new S-curve.

Tahir Sheikh Fakhar of Hayward died when his truck went over the northern side of the S-curve at 3:30 a.m. Nov. 9. California Highway Patrol investigators said they believed Fakhar was driving 10 mph over the 40 mph speed limit as he approached the curve, which had opened Sept. 8 as part of the eastern span replacement project.

The attorney for Fakhar's family, Lewis Van Blois, said it was the first time the veteran trucker had driven over the bridge since the curve was installed. There had been 43 accidents on the curve before Fakhar's, but none was fatal.

Fakhar was married and had two adult children.

"They (Caltrans) failed miserably to warn drivers in advance that they were coming into the S-curve," Van Blois said Wednesday. He said the design was negligent.

This sounds like nothing more than exploiting the grieving family of a man who, for reasons we shall probably never know, chose to disregard both the posted speed limit and his unfamiliarity with the rerouting of the road. It takes chutzpah to convince that family that Caltrans' negligence was the root cause of their patriarch's bad judgment. Indeed, if common sense prevails (which I realize is a touchy antecedent), the only beneficiary from this action will be Van Blois, because he has succeeded in getting his name in the papers; so it seems fitting that the reward for his success should be the Chutzpah of the Week award.

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