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Criminal trial of former SF worker who fatally struck pedestrian to begin

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Family of Thu Phan, a disabled pedestrian who was struck and killed while crossing Market Street in February 2016, gather during a March 2016 memorial service. (Jessica Christian/S.F.Examiner)

Opening statements are set to begin Tuesday in the trial of a former San Francisco city worker who was driving a car that struck and killed a woman crossing Market Street in a wheelchair nearly two years ago.

Thu Phan, 38, was on her way to work in a motorized wheelchair Feb. 5, 2016 when a city-owned car struck her in the crosswalk at Seventh and Market streets. The driver was later identified as James Harris, a then-employee of the Department of Public Health’s South of Market Mental Health Services program.

Harris is facing a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge in San Francisco Superior Court for allegedly driving with negligence that caused death, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The trial comes almost a year after Phan’s parents settled a wrongful death lawsuit with San Francisco for nearly $2.9 million. The Board of Supervisors approved the settlement Feb. 28, 2017.

Luyen Phan and Gai Thi Phan Nguyen claimed in the civil lawsuit that the vehicle Harris drove “made an illegal and unsafe left turn onto westbound Market Street,” striking their daughter in the crosswalk.

Phan was knocked to the pavement and later died of her injuries at San Francisco General Hospital, according to the lawsuit.

At the time, the San Francisco Examiner reported that police found Harris at fault in the collision.

The collision resulted in city transit officials improving signage at the intersection to clarify illegal turns, the Examiner previously reported. Safety advocates criticized the old signs for being too difficult to read.

“It was tragic, and it was preventable,” Ed Reiskin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, reportedly said after the collision.

Phan was one of 16 pedestrians killed in traffic collisions in San Francisco that year, according to The City’s Vision Zero program to end traffic fatalities.

Between January and November 2017, 12 people were struck and died in The City while walking.

These numbers do not include bicyclists.

Opening statements in the trial are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Hall of Justice.

Harris could face jail time for the misdemeanor charge. He is not in custody.

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