The family of Martin Nelis, the 54-year-old resident Pleasant Hill man who was struck and killed by a commercial truck last year while bicycling on Reliez Valley Road during his lunch break, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck’s driver and several related companies.
According to a press release issued through Business Wire, truck driver Jagmeet Singh Hundal struck Nelis when he attempted to overtake the cyclist on the winding road, his trailer striking the cyclist and running him over without Singh realizing contact had been made.
This site reported at the time that the driver continued on, dragging Nelis’ mangled bicycle under the truck for more than a mile. Nelis’ body was located and first responders administered lifesaving measures but the popular local man was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, names the truckdriver and companies including Hundal G. Trans, Inc., Greg’s Trucking Service, Inc., Advanced Pipeline Services, Inc., Hawk Builders, Inc. and Signature Development Group, Inc. According to the release, plaintiff’s include Nelis’ three adult children, Aidan Maguire, Fiona Nelis and Deidre Nelis, as well as his estate. Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages based on hospital and medical expenses, general and property damage, and prejudgment interest pursuant to law.
It was disclosed that a canvass of neighborhood surveillance cameras made at the time of the accident did in fact capture Singh’s truck attempting to overtake Nelis on the narrow road just before the accident occurred.
Also as claimed in the lawsuit, plaintiffs allege the truck driver violated the conditions of a construction permit by driving on the road where Nelis was killed. The driver was performing work for the Hylands Collection, a luxury housing development in Lafayette. The County issued building permit obtained by developer Signature Development Group, Inc. required that construction and large commercial vehicles access the site via specific roads suitable for commercial truck travel – which did not include the stretch of Reliez Valley Road where the accident took place, according to the release.
“Martin’s tragic death was entirely preventable,” attorney J. Kevin Morrison wrote. “My clients’ father was out enjoying a beautiful ride on a road he and countless others had safely biked many times before. The defendant was prohibited from driving his enormous commercial truck and trailer combination there, but that didn’t stop him. Nor did he adhere to California’s Three Feet for Safety Act and allow Martin a minimum cushion of three feet when attempting to pass him. The devastating result shows just how important it is for drivers to be aware of and adhere to the Three Feet for Safety Act.
“My sisters and I are devastated by the loss of our father. We miss him every day,” Aidan Maguire wrote. “Our aim with this lawsuit is not only to hold those who broke the law responsible for our father’s death, but to raise awareness about how drivers can ensure the safety of cyclists sharing the road. Adhering to the Three Feet for Safety Act is one important way. We hope no other family will ever have to experience what we have been through.”
California’s Three Feet for Safety Act was passed in 2014. Still, serious bicycle accidents are pervasive in California. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 147 fatalities among cyclists in the state in 2016, the highest number killed in 10 years.
Martin Nelis was a father of three and very active in the community, serving as the Public Information Officer for the City of Pleasant Hill since 2007.