City May Offer Svanemyr Family $15 Million in Fatal Holly Park Hit and Run Settlement


The Examiner has an update on the tragic case of Christy Svanemyr, the woman who was killed in Holly Park after she was run over by a San Francisco Rec and Park department truck last September. The Examiner says Svanemyr family is pursuing a lawsuit against the City:

San Francisco may be required to pay $15.13 million to the family of the mother who was fatally run over by a municipal pickup truck at Holly Park last year. A Recreation and Park Department gardener, Thomas Burnoski, remains on trial charged with vehicular manslaughter in connection with the hit and run incident.

The pending settlement comes nearly a year after 35-year-old Daly City resident Christine Svanemyr was fatally run over while lying on the grass with her 11-month-old child and small dog in the Bernal Heights park. The child and dog were not injured.

The Recreation and Park Commission on July 17 recommended approval of the proposed $15.13 million settlement of the legal claim filed last year by the victim’s husband, Vegar Svanemyr, according to a Recreation and Park Department official. It would ultimately require approval by the Board of Supervisors.

The Examiner also reports that the felony vehicular manslaughter charges filed against Thomas Burnoski, the Rec and Park employee who was driving the truck that killed Christy Svanemyr, are also underway. A pretrial conference took place earlier this week, and Burnoski is scheduled to return to court on September 4.

PHOTO: Flowers at the site where Christy Svanemyr was killed, photographed on Saturday, Sept 7, 2013 by Telstar Logistics

22 thoughts on “City May Offer Svanemyr Family $15 Million in Fatal Holly Park Hit and Run Settlement

  1. $15 million? That’s 300 years of median working life salary. Assuming the average person works 40 years, that’s 7.5 working lives spent to pay off this debt. Honest question, at what point does the amount become excessive?

    • At what point does it come close to ease the suffering of the affected family? I think even $15M is insulting.

      • You’re kidding yourself if you think any dollar sum will ever bring any type of real closure to a situation like this. On top of that, theres no medical bills to pay for christine, although i can understand the city paying a bit to make sure psychological help is there if necessary for her child and husband and anyone else directly effected. At the end of the day 15 million dollars is an outrageous amount to give to a husband and child outright, regardless of how tragic and sad the ACCIDENT that happened was. Theres elementary schools in the city using the same books to teach kids that i was taught with back in the 90’s, public housing in the city is decrepit, its not the taxpayers job or even the cities job to decide that excessive amounts of cash is the most P.C way to show you care. Its just making people money hungry. Now the husband will be living off money he got from his wifes death for the rest of his life, no need to work ever again and free to contemplate what the hell all the dollar bills are really worth. Nothing makes handling death easier folks, i guess if we feel it in our wallet too it makes it more fair?

    • We have to calculate more than just her worth in the workforce/economy. Christy was a talented person with strong community ties — in one of Todd’s original stories, a friend described her a “Zen monk, coach, trainer, amazing loving friend, mom, wife, dancer, snowboarder… “. You can’t put a price on her loss to her husband, daughter, parents, friends, coworkers, etc. No amount will ever make them whole.

    • Your question is valid. To be glib: it’s the same amount as what you would assign to the same member of your family.

    • After legal fees, family sees 9 million, her natural life would at least another 50 years, so that makes it 180,000 per year. The settlement is certainly not outrageous for the years of sadness and loss this family will endure.

    • This number should be closer to $50m, $15m is a joke and insult and agreed it’s not about the money, it’s about making a statement. All city employees/civil servants/muni staff should be carefully screened and include psych profiles.

    • Thanks so much for sharing this, Donna. I’d not been over to his blog. Heartwrenching to read it in his own words and see the photo she shared just moments before. You are correct– his words are really powerful and moving, so much strength and vulnerability. Thanks to him for sharing them, as this is something we will all face one day in some way or another.

    • My goodness, he is almost otherworldly to me. A spirit we can all emulate when bickering about the nonsense of Bernal at times.

    • Thanks for posting the link to his blog. I read much of what he wrote through tears.

      The background and ideology of this couple was not money-centric, so it’s ironic that this article is about money from the city.

      I know it’s easy to forget or overlook, but the gardner’s life was also changed by this event. You can blame him if you want but I doubt his actions were intentional. He’s had a rough life with the loss of his own daughter, and I’m relatively sure that Christy and her husband would have sympathy for this man as well, for such a terrible and life-changing mistake.

  2. THE ONLY way to figure out financial damages in someone’s death is to estimate what they would have earned had they lived a full life. The family can seek whatever money they want, but it’s highly likely that the final settlement will be MUCH lower than $15 million. Not even the “McDonald’s hot coffee” lady got anywhere near her asking price. I’d estimate that the family will end up with about $3 million. And don’t forget that a lot of the award also has to do with finding fault. Was the city negligent in its hiring of the worker? Had he done anything similar before? Was he ever reprimanded for failure to observe the rules before? Now, there is a prohibition against driving on the grass, but could the city possibly monitor each and every worker at all times? No, it can’t.

    If it were at all possible I’d like to see the worker be made responsible for most of the debt, but this will never happen because he’ll probably never earn more than $15 an hour in the rest of his working life.

  3. I think that this is only a beginning since there will be other lawsuits. BUT, Rec and Park banned these vehicles in the park and it is still happening. $150,000,000 is better suited and remove this idiot from the city’s payroll. What an outrage.

  4. Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco

  5. On top of the money, what I’d like to never again see a city truck driving over park grass.

    • It happens all the time still! My husband and I often report to 311 and no one ever responds – it’s so frustrating. I used to lay in the park with my dog on sunny days and I still can’t bring myself to do that again. Why do they need such large trucks? Why can’t they have small golf carts?

  6. I don’t know if it is inappropriate to comment on something so deeply personal to the people directly affected by this tragedy – if it is, I sincerely apologize. I do wonder if that amount of money is appropriate if this was an act of an individual and not due to a city or departmental policy – though if Rec/Park ever condones the action of reckless driving on any level or in any manner, implicitly or explicitly, then it must absolutely pay and must stop. I feel the settlement is high as it does reduce citywide funding for programs and projects presumably beneficial to the community and probably does nothing to actually punish policies or employees directly responsible for this tragic result, but after reading Christy husband’s blog, I have no concern about how he will use whatever settlement money he gets, and believe he will use it in a socially responsible way and perhaps in a way that benefits more people than if the city kept it and spent it.

    • >> I do wonder if that amount of money is appropriate if this was an act of an individual and not due to a city or departmental policy – though if Rec/Park ever condones the action of reckless driving on any level or in any manner, implicitly or explicitly, then it must absolutely pay and must stop.<<

      Please go back and read the original posts and media coverage from when Christy was killed. There's a history of Rec&Park turning a deaf ear to complaints about employee driving off the path/on the grass both in Holly Park and other spaces that they control.

      For one example:
      "The Chronicle also reports that of the four official complaints filed with Rec and Park by citizens over the past two years about poor driving by employees, two were filed about Rec and Park driving in Holly Park."

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