by Matt Rosenberg February 5th, 2013
A woman run over by a bus in West Seattle. A man who had already won a large settlement for police excessive force but whose attorney was denied key records in the process. A woman attacked and injured by a neighbor’s two pit bulls, about which she had already made complaints. Three different people injured by the same King County bus that rounded a bend on Interstate 5 and smacked into stalled traffic, at 30 miles per hour. These are a few of the 13 “tort,” or negligence lawsuits King County settled before trial with claimants for $100,000 or more in the fourth quarter of 2012, for a total of $10,535,500. The information comes in a new report to the King County Council from Jennifer Hillis, Director of the Office of Risk Management, Department of Executive Services.
The last quarter results bring to $15,785,500 the total of $100,000-plus tort claim settlements by the county in 2012, compared to $23.1 million in 2011 and $10.3 million in 2010, according to earlier county records reported on by Public Data Ferret. The percentage of dollars paid out in such settlements that stemmed from errors attributed to King County Metro transit employees was almost 73 percent in 2012 versus 27 percent in 2011 and 64 percent in 2010.
The biggest fourth quarter 2012 tort settlement was $5 million to Racheal Kincaide, now 31, of south suburban Seatac. Three years ago she was struck by a turning Metro bus while crossing the street at Fauntleroy Way and California Ave. Southwest in West Seattle.
She had the “walk” signal but was knocked down by the bus and run over by the rear tires, with major injuries to her torso, legs and pelvis. She underwent surgery several times and was then in a nursing home until last June. According to the report, she made “a remarkable recovery” but still suffers chronic pain from the surgeries.
The next largest settlement in the fourth quarter also involved a passenger run over by a Metro bus, Joginder Walia, now 57, of Kent. She was the last rider off a Metro bus in December 2008 at the Tukwila Park and Ride and fell to the ground while crossing in front of the bus, unseen by the driver. As she tried to stand up, she was struck the bus, which had begun to move again. She was unable to return to her job as a registered nurse because of cardiac and respiratory complications resulting from surgery for crushing fractures of her sacrum, femur, pelvis and hip.
In December of 2012 a judge in Pierce County awarded another $1,478,000 to Christopher Sean Harris for claims the county failed to produce documents to which his attorneys were entitled. This occured in the discovery phase of his excessive force lawsuit. The county settled with him on the main claims in early 2011 for $10 million, as the Seattle Times reported then.
Another of the settlements in the last quarter was for $175,000 to Kimberly Owen, of King County. She suffered lacerations and puncture wounds and was infected and hospitalized for three days after being attacked and bitten by two pit bull dogs belonging to a neighbor. According to the report, “The King County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control had received previous reports of these two dogs running unrestrained and threatening Ms. Owen and her family.”
Three more of the settlements totaling $660,000 involved the driver of a car and the driver and passenger in a Beacon Plumbing truck who were all injured when a King County Metro bus in August, 2008 rounded a bend on northbound I-5 near Michigan Street and smacked into slowed traffic.
The incidents in the 13 cases settled in the fourth quarter of 2012 occurred between August, 2008 and August, 2012. Most of the settlements occurred after mediation. For individual tort pay-outs of less than $7.5 million, the county makes the payments directly from a self-insurance fund. Overall tort payouts by the county – including settlements under $100,000 – are typically about one-seventh more than the subtotal of those of $100,000 or more. Officials are required under an ordinance approved by the county board to report quarterly on the larger tort settlements. The information is not maintained in a public online spreadsheet or database, but quarterly updates can be found through notices at an obscure online portal for county documents.