Hawaii County To Pay $15.1M Settlement Over Police Crash

Sep 3, 2019

HILO — Hawaii County has agreed to pay a $15.1 million settlement to the family of a Michigan man who was hit and killed by a police patrol car, officials said.

Jeffrey Surnow, 63, was riding a bicycle on the Big Island when he was killed in March 2015, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday.

Officer Jody Buddemeyer was working his second consecutive eight-hour shift when he struck the resident of West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Buddemeyer, now 34, was convicted last year of misdemeanor negligent homicide and sentenced to one year of probation. Buddemeyer no longer works for the police department, although he is appealing the case, officials said.

The Hawaii County Police Department previously required officers to work back-to-back shifts, but the department has ended the policy, officials said.

"In this case, what that policy led to is the officer being awake for more than 26 hours at the time of the accident," said family attorney Thomas Otake. "All the evidence indicates that he fell asleep."

Buddemeyer had previously complained about the policy, but he did not pull over and rest when he became fatigued, family attorneys said.

Surnow was a real estate executive who founded a company that manages properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His potential earnings would have exceeded the settlement amount, family attorneys said.

Most of the settlement proceeds are expected to go to a charitable foundation setup by the Surnow family, officials said.