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California

Husband and father of homeless woman killed by Caltrans machine have filed separate suits

In this Aug. 1, 2018, photo, law enforcement officers stand by the scene behind the American Budget
A homeless woman was crushed by the bucket of a front loader last August.
(Deke Farrow / AP)

The widower of a homeless woman who died in August after being struck by California Department of Transportation machinery along a highway in Modesto has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the state and the driver.

Shannon Marie Bigley had been sleeping in a cardboard box in a grassy field along Highway 99 when she was crushed by the bucket of a front loader.

In November, her father, Maurice Bigley, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Stanislaus County Superior Court against Caltrans. Her husband, Earnest Gray, filed a separate lawsuit last month against Caltrans and Brady Walker, the machine operator who had been driving the front loader.

According to the Modesto Bee, Walker was put on administrative leave in October, two months after Bigley’s death, and returned to work in February. A police report obtained by the Bee said Walker drove the front loader into a ravine where Bigley was sleeping after two homeless men identified items nearby as garbage.

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Bigley’s attorney told the Bee that he believes the cases will be combined, but Gray has said he is the “rightful heir.” A judge may have to make the decision if both parties don’t come to an agreement.

The cost to clean homeless encampments has steadily climbed over the past several years. From 2012 to 2017, Caltrans spent $29.2 million on the issue. According to a March 2018 performance report, the agency spent $10 million in 2017 alone.

Shortly after Bigley’s death, the union representing Caltrans workers filed a formal complaint with the agency citing health and safety concerns in regards to the practice of cleaning homeless encampments.

In January 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a finding of 129,972 homeless people in California on a single night.

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