A screenshot from a video shows the moment when a woman got her hand caught in a train door and was dragged on to the tracks. (Courtesy image)

Woman caught in Muni door, dragged to tracks files claim against SF

Sunset District resident suffered collapsed lung, broken ribs, spinal and pelvic fractures

After a month of silence, the woman dragged by a Muni train has filed a claim against The City seeking payment for her medical expenses and distress.

Choi Ngor Li, a Sunset District resident, has identified herself as the person who infamously found her hand caught in the door of a brand new Muni train and was then pulled to the tracks of Embarcadero Station.

A video of the April 12 incident, first revealed in an investigative report by the San Francisco Examiner, made headlines worldwide.

Li’s claim alleges negligence on the part of the Muni operator who drove the train away while she was trapped in it, negligence on the part of a nearby station agent who failed to help her and negligence on the part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for allowing the train doors to operate despite “failed safety tests.”

At the time of the incident, hospital officials could not reveal the extent of her injuries due to patient confidentiality laws. In her claim against San Francisco, Li revealed just how severely she was harmed after being pulled to the tracks.

Her ribs were broken, her lung collapsed, she sustained spinal and pelvic fractures, her attorneys wrote. Li also sustained lacerations to her head, abrasions, swellings and “other injuries presently undiagnosed,” according to the claim she filed May 3 with The City Attorney’s Office.

Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset District where Li lives, read the description of Li’s injuries and said “my god.”

“The description of her injuries are shocking and disturbing,” he told the Examiner.

He lampooned SFMTA’s “gross lack of safety review” in Muni’s $1.1 billion new light rail vehicle fleet, adding “It’s just shocking that this wasn’t something that they had identified in a review process.”

Li’s claim is a necessary precursor to a lawsuit. Her attorney, Matthew Davis, of the firm Walkup, Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger, declined to comment.

The City Attorney’s Office denied Li’s claim because there is a “lack of information to evaluate whether [San Francisco] is responsible for any damages suffered by your client,” reads The City’s claim rejection notice.

This is also the first time the public has been able to hear Li’s perspective on what has been called a “harrowing” incident.

In the narrative of the claim, Li’s attorneys say as she attempted to board the train “the train door suddenly and unexpectedly closed on her hand, causing her to become trapped within the door. While Claimant was trapped, the train began to rapidly accelerate, first dragging Claimaint along the ground, and then underneath the train and onto the tracks.”

SFMTA Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum on Tuesday detailed how the agency has moved to improve the doors since Li’s incident. Whereas the doors previously only had one “sensitive edge” to detect objects in the door before, now it has three, offering further redundancy.

Kirschbaum also told the SFMTA Board of Directors that although their previous door safety testing met the “industry standard,” it only tested objects caught in doors straight on — the incident with Li demonstrated a need to test objects caught in the door at other angles, Kirschbaum said.

She also referred to an incident caught on video with NBC Bay Area where her own hand was caught in a train door, when she was demonstrating how the door was supposed to properly work.

“Common sense, and more specifically my hand being stuck in the door, told us the door was not working,” Kirschbaum told the directorsTuesday. “We’re now testing it at multiple angles in addition to straight on.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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