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Lawsuit filed against City of Berkeley following death of veteran crossing Bancroft Way

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SEPTEMBER 15, 2023

A lawsuit was filed Aug. 30 against the city of Berkeley for dangerous condition of public property of the intersection where Marine veteran Williams Evans, 72, was hit and killed by a truck driver while crossing in a wheelchair last October.

Alongside the aforementioned claim, the complaint also alleges a cause of action for negligence against Construction Materials Trucking, Inc. and Rojas Trucking.

According to the first claim, the defendants allegedly “negligently and carelessly” operated the truck which hit Evans and resulted in fatal injuries. The second claim alleges that the Shattuck Avenue and Bancroft Way intersection where Evans was hit was of “dangerous condition,” one which created risk of such an incident occurring.

“The City of Berkeley had undertaken steps to make the intersection safer for pedestrians, but failed to implement the corrective measures,” the lawsuit alleges. “Despite its knowledge of the dangerous condition of the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Bancroft Way, City of Berkeley failed to warn pedestrians of the dangerous conditions it knew to exist.”

Ben Gerhardstein with Walk Bike Berkeley, a volunteer organization for equitable and safe transportation systems, said the Berkeley Southside Complete Streets Project hopes to improve safety on streets, one of which is Bancroft Way. The project received funding approval this July.

Regardless, he noted that additional steps could still be taken by the city to preclude similar tragedies.

For Gerhardstein, Evans’ death came as a shock.

“Many of us that are centrally involved in Walk Bike Berkeley, we are both parents of young children and … we’re also at a stage in our lives where we’re seeing our parents have more mobility challenges, and seeing how vulnerable folks in older stages of life can be on our roads,” Gerhardstein said. “It’s hard to reckon with our stated goals and what the city purports to be doing in trying to eliminate severe and fatal conditions.”

The damages listed in the lawsuit incurred by the plaintiff Esther Johnson include deprivation of love, companionship, comfort and moral support among other harms as a result of Evans’ death. Further financial losses from funeral and burial expenses are also noted on the complaint, which requests for a trial by jury.

As of press time, Johnson’s attorneys declined to comment on the case. The City of Berkeley also did not respond to a request for comment.

“The city has done an admirable job in putting in place the policies that it needs to make rapid progress, but those policies haven’t translated into the pace and prioritization of true safety in our physical environment,” Gerhardstein said. “We need to really staff our city government, our department of public works, and take stronger political action to prioritize safety.”

Contact Swasti Singhai at 


SEPTEMBER 15, 2023