Girardi | Keese

Wrongful death case arises from woman's death in city park

Once again the impatience of a driver to get from point A to point B has caused a tragic death. The death of a 35-year-old California woman had residents and city officials in San Francisco shocked and angry. A city parks employee ran the woman over with a city pickup truck while she sat in a grassy area of Holly Park in Bernal Heights with her 11-month-old baby and her dog, who were both uninjured. The woman's estate may assert a wrongful death claim for damages against the city.

The employee was a gardener who had ended his shift and was apparently hurrying to get to St. Mary's Park nearby, where city gardeners gather at the end of the day, police said. He left the park pathway and drove straight across the grassy area, possibly taking a shortcut route to his destination. After running the woman over he kept on driving, but was apprehended by police while allegedly returning later to the site of the fatal truck accident with his supervisor.

The 57-year-old man was booked into San Francisco County Jail and held on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run. The decedent left a husband in addition to the baby. One woman who walks her dog in Holly Park daily said that she had previously complained about the improper driving of parks employees through park areas.

Back in February she complained on a city website but received no reply. Reporters interviewed nearby residents who verified the woman's account. Officials verified that it's against policy for employees to drive on park property or the actual grassy park area merely for convenience purposes. It is also prohibited to drive in any park areas without a spotter onboard. Published photos show that the place where the victim sat was in an open, grassy area of the park near a small tree.

Under California negligence law, the reported facts tend to establish at least negligent operation by the employee. Her estate now has the right to bring a wrongful death suit against the city and the driver. Due to the city's knowledge of a prior problem, it is likely liable for not taking action to correct the danger created by its employees.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Woman killed by SF truck identified as outrage grows, Vivian Ho and Kurtis Alexander, Sept. 7, 2013

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