Last week, the Honolulu City Council unanimously approved a $1 million settlement to benefit the surviving family of a woman who was struck and killed by a city refuse truck in Kalihi in February 2014. Seventy-year-old Barbara N. Kato succumbed to her injuries three hours after being hit by the truck while crossing at a crosswalk at North King Street and Gulick Avenue early in the morning. She had been on her way to work at the time of the accident.
The driver of the truck had a history of eight prior avoidable collisions while operating a garbage truck. This fatality was the third within a 12-month period in which a pedestrian was struck by a city garbage truck.
Councilman Ron Menor, chairman of the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, said that Kato’s death was a clear case of negligence and that the driver was inattentive. The driver has been disciplined as a result of this incident.
Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner attorney Michael Cruise, an attorney for Kato’s estate and for her sons, Kevin and Keith, says that he hopes that the city will respond by taking further steps to prevent this type of accident from happening again in the future.
“Hitting walls, parked cars, things like that, all red flags that she needed some attention (given) to her driving skills, and she never got it,” Cruise said. Because there is a union contract allowing a driver’s violations to be expunged after two years, the result is what Cruise calls a “public safety issue.” “They end up with at least some drivers that have pretty bad driving histories and they’re not getting retrained and that issue is not being addressed.”