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Misdemeanor charge for driver in collision that killed Pleasanton man crossing Stoneridge with dog

Original post made on Aug 6, 2021

The DA's office this week charged a Union City man with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in connection with the collision that killed a Pleasanton man walking his dog across Stoneridge Drive nearly three months ago.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 5, 2021, 10:57 PM

Comments (19)

Posted by Tim
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 6, 2021 at 9:31 am

Tim is a registered user.

"For unknown reasons, Mudaliar never saw Fiala crossing the road, hit him with the front of the car and didn't apply the brakes until the pedestrian landed on the ground, according to Christensen.

"Mudaliar denied being on his phone or being distracted in any other way inside his vehicle," Christensen wrote. "The landscaping, rising sun or weather did not play a role in this collision.""

How sad that our justice system does not recognize" gross negligence" when it happens. A driver can literally get away with murder just by saying " I didn't see them." It is literally impossible that this driver did not see the person if they were actually looking at the road. He very obviously lied to the police about what he was doing in the car - he was most certainly not driving the car. Hopefully they will suspend his license for life and he will spend some time in jail. But there is no guarantee of that. Our "justice" system is very lenient to people who kill others with their cars. Most likely he will be driving again soon.

This very much reminds me of the cyclist in Santa Rosa many years ago who was hit by a driver who drifted into the bike lane (eye witness accounts). The bicyclist was paralyzed for life. The driver claimed she "did not see anything and was just driving straight," though" a shadow passed over my car." The "shadow" was the bicyclist rolling over her windshield according to eye witnesses. The driver was not cited for ANYTHING because the police said they "could not find anything she did wrong." Except, of course, drift out of her lane, hit a cylist and paralyze him for life. Nothing wrong with all that according to the police. To this day that driver was never held to account and is still out there driving.

Or maybe we should ask when they are going to charge the incompetent gravel truck driver who killed a cyclist in Livermore last December. A cyclist crossing the street, run over by a inattentive driver of a 20-ton truck who "didn't see anything."


Posted by Craig
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 6, 2021 at 12:04 pm

Craig is a registered user.

As far as the gravel truck driver running over the bicyclist the police said the bicyclist was in the wrong, not the truck driver. You're spreading fake news Tim.


Posted by Michelle
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 6, 2021 at 1:54 pm

Michelle is a registered user.

This article is incorrect in stating the speed limit where the accident happened is 40 mph. It is not! When traveling eastbound, as the driver was, the speed limit is 35 mph from Santa Rita Road to a little past and east of Newton Way. The driver was going even more over the speed limit! The speed limit at that intersection, if traveling Westbound, is 40 mph. Did the police bother to check the driver's phone to see if it had been used prior to the accident or did they simply take his word for it? Did the police check the driver's medical records as to his eyesight? The police informed the widow of the man killed by the driver that the driver stated (when questioned about the accident): "It wasn't intentional." Why would he think someone would think that it was? This driver is getting too lenient of a sentence. Something isn't right here. After two months of investigating, the Pleasanton Police Dept. determined that there was enough evidence to charge the driver with Felony Manslaughter. Why didn't the District Attorney's Office charge the driver as recommended by the Police Department? Why are District Attorneys not supporting the local Police Departments who do all the investigating?


Posted by Jeremy Walsh, editor
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Jeremy Walsh, editor is a registered user.

Interesting thread of comments so far. To clarify Michelle's question about the speed limit, the article correctly describes the police officer's declaration of the facts of his investigation, which included a determination that the speed limit at the point of impact was 40 mph.

I've been trying since the crash occurred to get a clear answer on the specific question of the speed limit change on Stoneridge in that area, but I have had little luck. As anyone who's been out to that intersection knows, it is hard to discern onsite based on the signage locations, but my intuition is the point of change from 35 to 40 eastbound might technically be the Newton intersection itself (especially if we have the police in this case saying 40 mph in their report).

Not to encourage speculation, because the reporting is still evolving, as is now the criminal prosecution, but I think it's worth noting that in general there are many factors that go into a criminal filing decision (which is always made the prosecutor as the legal authority), including what elements of a crime are met and provable in court beyond a reasonable doubt -- i.e. whether a conviction can be attained based on the facts.

With no specific answers yet in this case, I can say in general those decisions can get tricky in a situation where you have multiple parties doing something "against the law" such as a jaywalker and a speeding unaware driver -- as Craig and Tim are getting at, it almost becomes a question of which violation is more egregious or more to blame. In this case, the DA's office determined it to be the driver at the misdemeanor level. We've got no public explanation on the reasoning beyond that, which is common at this stage.

And just so it's said, a reminder that a defendant is considered innocent under the law unless and until convicted. We'll look forward to covering this case through to resolution.


Posted by buklau
a resident of Avila
on Aug 6, 2021 at 6:52 pm

buklau is a registered user.

Feel horrible for the pedestrian hit. My condolences to the family.

While it's unfortunate, I would not consider this an act of murder.

The walker walked in the intersection during a don't-walk signal. It's possible the driver was driving into a green light and the walker jay-walked into traffic without paying attention himself. The driver should have stopped and likely wasn't paying full attention, but I would not consider this an egregious act of murder.

The driver should have been paying better attention, and the pedestrian walked in a don't-walk and may have not been paying attention himself.

Be careful out there - to both drivers and pedestrians!


Posted by Michelle
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 6, 2021 at 9:15 pm

Michelle is a registered user.

I looked up the question: "How do speed limit signs work?" This is what I found:

In the chapter on speed limits, the MUTCD states that speed limit signs “shall be located at the points of change from one speed limit to another.” Relying on the MUTCD, drivers should not accelerate until reaching an increased speed limit sign. (MUTCD = Manual Uniform Traffic Control Device) In other words, the posted sign eastbound on Stoneridge Road shows the change from 35 to 40 mph AFTER passing the Newton Way intersection. So, a driver is to keep to the 35 mph speed limit sign UNTIL he reaches/passes the posted 40 mph sign! Then the driver can increase speed to 40 mph. Mr. Mudaliar was obligated to keep to 35 mph until he reached the 40 mph sign, and NOT BEFORE, which the change in speed limit is posted on Stoneridge Road AFTER crossing Newton Way intersection. Mr. Mudaliar was exceeding the posted speed limit by 12 mph and not 7 mph.


Posted by Mike Davis
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Mike Davis is a registered user.

The city traffic engineer has all of the speed limit data posted online. The speed limit where the collision occurred is 40mph according to the most recent speed survey: Web Link


Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:31 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Well if a Chp officers wife can murder a child and mother driving drunk after several instances of drunk driving and get away with it, why should this be anything but a slap on the wrist


Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 7, 2021 at 9:31 pm

sjd is a registered user.

@Craig

The police retracted that statement of fault in the case you're referring to.

Web Link


Posted by Jo
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 8, 2021 at 6:50 pm

Jo is a registered user.

I've always said the easist way to get away with murder is put the person on a bike and run them down. Add walking to the list apparently . 100 bucks he was on his phone and or, not a capable driver anymore.


Posted by Tim
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 9, 2021 at 11:11 am

Tim is a registered user.

Craig, in the case of the gravel truck driver killing the cyclist, you apparently missed the article that the Livermore Police retracted their statement blaming the cyclist the very next day because numerous people notified them that they were wrong. When the police "consulted" their city counsel, they then admitted they were wrong and the cyclists was right. The cross walk there is part of a bike path, so is legal. In any case, the cyclist would have been "right" anyway because they were crossing a street with a green light and it did not matter if they were in a crosswalk or not.

The Livermore police completely botched that "investigation." It took them 3 months to be wrong about blaming the cyclist. It took them a week to find the truck driver, even though he came from a facility only 2 miles up the road and they could have found him the same day, maybe by noon if they were really on top of it. As it was they missed their chance to get evidence of the collision, toxicology, and a statement from the driver when his memory was fresh. Now it is 7 months later and the Livermore Police have STILL not determined fault! The police said "it is a complicated case." No. It is not complicated at all. The cyclists was well into a crosswalk crossing the street. The driver had plenty of time and opportunity to see the cyclist. Instead the driver was clearly not paying attention - ie, was not driving the truck in a competent manner. There was no reason whatsoever to "not see" the cyclist. Therefore the driver is completely at fault and need to be held accountable.

And how do they square a person walking a dog against a red light, and hit by an clearly incompetent driver, and they charge the driver. But a truck driver running over a cyclist legally crossing a street is NOT charged?

The police and DA's in most cities are schizophrenic when dealing with pedestrian and cyclist deaths. They clearly just make it up as they go. No accountability for them at all.


Posted by Tim
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 9, 2021 at 11:27 am

Tim is a registered user.

The reports that an officer files are often wrong. There was a case in San Francisco last year when a cyclist was hit by a car and the officer put a diagram in his report that showed the cyclist landed in a place that would have made it seem he was at fault. Luckily people took video and photos that showed the cyclist in a completely different place and clearly showed the motorist was at fault (turned in front of the cyclist and threw him).

We all know that the advent of camera phones has made police statements a laughing stock in many, many cases.


Posted by Michelle
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 10, 2021 at 7:58 pm

Michelle is a registered user.

I have not seen the police report of the accident that killed Mark Fiala. I will, however, again state unequivocally that the speed limit at that particular intersection in the EASTBOUND direction is 35 mph. The speed limit sign posted in the median and north of the eastbound lanes of Stoneridge Drive wherein the speed limit changes from 35 to 40 mph is 170 feet past the east pedestrian walkway at Newton Way and Stoneridge. There is a pedestrian crossing just west of the east pedestrian walkway which Mr. Mudaliar had to cross first before hitting Mr. Fiala in the second walkway. The 40 mph RADAR speed limit sign posted on the south side of Stoneridge Drive in the eastbound direction is 215 feet from the pedestrian walkway in which Mark Fiala was crossing when hit by Mr. Mudaliar. Furthermore, there are two 35 mph speed limit signs on Stoneridge Drive in the immediate area. The first is at the corner of Stoneridge Drive and Santa Rita Road and is located 41 feet east of the southeast corner of the intersection. The second 35 mph speed limit sign is 75 feet east of the intersection of Rheem Drive and Stoneridge Drive on the south side of the street. In other words, the driver, if trying to follow the law, had two signs informing him that the speed limit when driving eastbound on Stoneridge Drive is 35 MPH and remain so until 170 feet past the intersection of Newton Way and Stoneridge Drive. You can check the area yourself. The driver was driving 12 mph FASTER than the speed limit. He obviously wasn't looking at the road in front of him. How is it that another driver going in the opposite direction could see the pedestrian 540 feet before the intersection but Mr. Mudaliar could not. He had at least 400 feet of unobstructed roadway before crossing the intersection to see a pedestrian. He should not be allowed to drive period; his driver's license should be suspended indefinitely. It is appalling that he is being charged a misdemeanor for KILLING A PERSON!


Posted by PleasantonAdvocate
a resident of Ironwood
on Aug 10, 2021 at 9:17 pm

PleasantonAdvocate is a registered user.

I feel terrible for the pedestrian hit. A tragic unnecessary loss of human life leaves us all looking for answers.

Having said that, I'm glad we have a judicial system. Reading this thread, I see judgements passed around for or against the defendant.

Remember, we don't know all the facts. Our legal system is built to ascertain all the facts and then help make a determination. And our legal system is not fool-proof. We would rather let someone who committed a crime go free than accidentally (due to our zeal or opinions) have an innocent person be incarcerated. That has its downsides. But I would prefer to live in a system that has these values than otherwise.


Posted by Jeremy Walsh, editor
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2021 at 10:52 am

Jeremy Walsh, editor is a registered user.

To follow up on the comments about the speed limit, the information I have from the city states that the speed limit on Stoneridge Drive between Kamp Drive and Trevor Parkway is 40 mph in both directions. That is in line with the determination in the officer's probable cause declaration of 40 mph at the Newton intersection. The argument that speed limit changes only align with sign locations does not appear to be correct in this case.


Posted by Tim
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 12, 2021 at 9:24 am

Tim is a registered user.

"The argument that speed limit changes only align with sign locations does not appear to be correct in this case."

So, the signs on the street are wrong? How is anyone to know what the speed limit is if the city and officers have a secret speed limit known only to the city and officers? Any judge would laugh the city and officer out of court if they tried that argument!

The general rule is that the speed limit at any point is what ever the last sign said, until you reach the next sign, or even as you see the next sign.

Indeed, I had a Pleasanton officer pull me over on southbound Santa Rita once because I was going 40 in a 35 zone, but the speed changes after passing Mohr ave,
- 40 north of Mohr, 35 south of Mohr - so he just gave me a warning.

And a "traffic survey" only shows what speed people actually drive, not what the legal speed limit is.


Posted by Jeremy Walsh, editor
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2021 at 10:49 am

Jeremy Walsh, editor is a registered user.

I appreciate readers' attempts to interpret traffic laws, and I will continue to research the legal question around speed limit boundary markers. I have not found anything under California law thus far that states official speed limits can only change at the sign location, and it is unclear whether local jurisdictions may have some discretion. Anecdotally, I will say that when driving and a speed limit change occurs near an intersection, from a practical purpose I assume the change actually took effect at the intersection, even though it is very uncommon that I've seen a speed limit sign at an actual intersection (usually at some distance before or after).

The fact, as it stands now under city code, is the speed limit on Stoneridge Drive between Kamp Drive and Trevor Parkway in both directions is 40mph. Here is the Pleasanton traffic speed assignment website people have pointed to: Web Link

Here is the Feb. 4, 2020 Pleasanton City Council agenda with details about the speed increase there, a decision driven by the mandated traffic study of the area. Web Link

Also, it's probably worth noting that this could be a question the lawyers on both sides will argue about as the case progresses (if the case reaches that point). But regardless of 7mph or 12mph over the speed limit, I'm not sure either scenario would've qualified as felony reckless driving from a speed perspective (which I believe is 15+ mph over the limit). That is a question I'll research too.


Posted by Michelle
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 30, 2021 at 5:54 pm

Michelle is a registered user.

(In response to Mike Davis and Jeremy Walsh): I drove down Stoneridge Drive in the WESTBOUND direction to see what the SIGNS said was the speed limit. The speed limit in the WESTBOUND direction ONLY, is 40 mph at the Newton Way intersection and changes to 35 mph BEFORE reaching Kamp Drive. There is a 35 mph sign east of Kamp Drive and another 35 mph speed limit sign west of Kamp Drive. Check it out yourself with your eyes open and you will see I am correct. Also, it is possible that, when Mr. Mudaliar hit Mark Fiala with his car, his body flew a number of feet and landed just where the 40 mph speed limit sign is located. Thereby, he had an excuse that, "See, it's 40 mph here" and not 35 mph. Shameful!


Posted by Jtjh
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 3, 2021 at 1:47 pm

Jtjh is a registered user.

Tim wrote:
"
The police and DA's in most cities are schizophrenic when dealing with pedestrian and cyclist deaths. They clearly just make it up as they go."

I don't really think this is correct. What I DO think, however, is that when there are no witnesses able and willing to state what happened, in cases involving cyclist vs. motor vehicle, the police tend to attribute blame to the cyclist. They are under pressure to close cases and it is usually quicker and easier to do this if the cyclist was at fault. In such accidents, even if cyclists are not fatally injured, or unconscious, they are often suffering from concussion and shock, and yet statements are sometimes taken from them in their confused state nonetheless, and used in the sometimes derisory violations attributed to them.

From the reports, it appears that until witnesses came forward, this is exactly what happened in the sad gravel truck case. And whilst the horrific accident was fortunately exceptional, it is my opinion that the initial formal misattribution of blame was not.


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