BART Accused of Being Late -- in Paying Out to Survivors of Track Inspector Killed by Train

Categories: Public Transit
When it rains, it pours -- and, right now, BART is in the middle of a veritable monsoon.

Atop the ongoing unrest that comes with BART police beating and shooting an unarmed man (and, more tellingly, video of said offense hitting the news), now the widow and child of a former BART employee killed by a speeding train are accusing the agency of putting the brakes on survivor payments.

A terse release sent to Bay Area media outlets accused BART of not yet paying dollar one to the family of James Strickland, who was inspecting the tracks last year between Concord and Pleasant Hill stations when he was hit by a train (the cringe-inducing wording of the release -- certainly not accidental -- notes that Strickland, 44, was "struck from behind by a train travelling 70 mph.").

Incidentally, the Stewart Boxer of the law firm handling this case, Boxer Gerson LLP, is the husband of Sen. Barbara Boxer. Warrants mentioning.

BART e-mailed SF Weekly the following statement regarding Strickland's death:

      BART is sensitive to the loss suffered by the family of James
Strickland, and is fully supportive of their receiving all the benefits to
which they are entitled.

      The family has already received both life insurance payments and the
amount of pay owed to Mr. Strickland at the time of his death, and is the
beneficiary of his investment accounts.

      Payments from Workers' Compensation depend on receipt of appropriate
documentation from the family.  A portion of the necessary documentation
was received just last week, but some information remains outstanding.
BART has been in continuing discussion with the attorney for the Strickland
family, and will make renewed efforts to reach an accommodation such that
payments can be made.
If BART is searching for a silver lining, at least it can take solace in knowing no one caught Strickland's horrible death on cell phone video (to the best of our knowledge).

The text of the press release is printed after the break.

BART Accused of Delaying Death Benefit Payments

to Family of Employee Killed by Train


CONCORD, February 2, 2009 -- The widow and the 18-year-old son of a 44-year-old BART employee who was struck and killed by a train while inspecting tracks last October are still waiting for the death benefits to which they are entitled and are asking state officials to impose penalties on the transit district for the delays.

 James Strickland, an inspector for the S.F. Bay Area Rapid Transit, was struck from behind by a train travelling 70 mph on Oct. 14, 2008 while performing a routine inspection on the tracks between the Concord and Pleasant Hill stations. At the time of the accident, BART had assigned trains headed in opposite directions to a shared track for routine maintenance.

 Boxer & Gerson, the Oakland law firm representing Strickland's widow and his 18-year-old son, has filed an appeal with the State Workers' Compensation Board seeking payment of the benefits in addition to penalties for "unreasonable delays" on the part of BART.


 "The delays in this process are simply unacceptable," said Michael Gerson, the attorney representing the Strickland family. "Clearly, the family is entitled to the death benefits, so there is no conceivable reason why they have been delayed since October. The death of Mr. Strickland is an admitted on-the-job accident, yet the employer has not provided the benefits to which his family is statutorily entitled."

 The workers' compensation carrier for BART, Athens Administration of Concord, has delayed a decision on paying the death benefits, claiming vaguely that more information is needed. Gerson, however, has provided all the information that was requested. He filed a hearing request with the State Workers' Compensation Board on January 30, asking that BART pay the weekly benefits and penalties for unreasonable delay. "What should be a cut-and-dried case has become subject to unaccountable delays that are causing hardships for Strickland's surviving family," said Gerson.

 Linda Strickland relied on her husband's earnings from BART, and his son, J.T. Strickland, was also dependent on Mr. Strickland because he is attending college and has no outside income. James Strickland was a 7-year veteran of the agency, who BART officials described as a highly trained and experienced employee at the time of his death.


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