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LRIS Panel Attorney Wins $5.36 Million Settlement from MUNI

LRIS’s largest ever settlement by a panel attorney; Largest ever MUNI settlement involving a transit vehicle


By Carole Conn, LRIS


Like the sudden strike of a predator, profound tragedy devastated a man and the life he once knew in a single moment. One evening in November 2008, a MUNI bus driver failed to stop at a stop sign and accelerated through a left turn onto the Lower Great Highway, hitting 44-year old David Wheeler as he crossed on his bike in the crosswalk. His life was transformed in an instant by suffering a traumatic brain injury.

LRIS was contacted less than two weeks after the accident by Wheeler’s girlfriend and his out-of-state brother. Wheeler was still in a coma when his brother arrived in town. A MUNI investigator told the brother that the accident was entirely Wheeler’s fault, but refused to give the brother a copy of the police report. The investigator also told the brother that the facts were so clearly against Wheeler that no lawyer would even consider taking the case. Relying upon its panel of proven attorneys for massive injuries, LRIS referred the family to a veteran personal injury attorney.

The attorney immediately brought in his law partner and together the long-standing partners began to work on the case. At first glance, the case appeared to have many problems. It was initially reported that Wheeler was injured when he rode his bike into the back of the MUNI bus. The Traffic Collision Report found that the bus had hit Wheeler with its front end but nonetheless claimed Wheeler to be the primary collision factor. Additionally, Wheeler did not have a light on his bike and was not wearing a helmet, in violation of mandatory requirements.

A witness to the accident, who had been misquoted in the police report, told the attorneys the bus had run the stop sign and broadsided Wheeler. Later, pursuant to a Sunshine Ordinance demand, a recording from an on-board MUNI camera was obtained that confirmed the witness’ account and showed the bus running a number of stop signs prior to the accident.

The victim's attorneys reached an agreement with the City to settle the case for $5.36 million, the largest Muni settlement ever involving a Muni bus, cable or trolley car. This victory also tops the largest settlement award previously reported by an LRIS Panel attorney. That award came in 2006 when LRIS Personal Injury panel attorneys won a $4.15M settlement in another massive injury case against an airline.

The LRIS attorneys have represented accident victims with catastrophic injuries since 1988. Prior to entering partnership, the two attorneys served as trial attorneys with the City Attorney’s Office. Certainly, this case demonstrates what talent and approximately 2,500 hours, per attorney, of hard work can accomplish for unfortunate victims like Wheeler, who is permanently disabled and will need medical care and assistance for the rest of his life.

BASF’s LRIS is a referral program certified by the State Bar and nationally recognized as a model referral service by the ABA. To join, visit or call our Membership Coordinator at 415-782-9000 x8750. If you cannot assist an inquirer who contacts your law firm, consider LRIS as the trusted source for referrals to attorneys with verified experience. The number to call is 415-989-1616 or email inquiries can be submitted at