Jury Awards Woman $5.5 Million in Suit Against Whatcom County, State Patrol

Woman injured in collision with drunk driver, county found negligent

Whatcom County and the state must pay $5.5 million after a jury’s verdict Tuesday, April 28, determined that their negligence allowed a drunk driver to injure a local woman.

The Whatcom County woman, Hailey French, sued the driver, Janine Parker, the county and the Washington State Patrol in Skagit County Superior Court. After a three-week trial and more than a day of deliberations, the jury ruled in favor of French.

The county will have to pay about $2.8 million, the state about $2.6 million and Parker $25,000, said one of French’s attorneys, Dean Brett. The jury found that Parker was more at fault for the crash than the county and state, but she doesn’t have insurance to pay for the amount awarded, Brett said.

French’s other attorney, Gene Moses, said it was the largest amount awarded by a jury in Skagit County’s history.

French was seriously injured after Parker’s car crossed the center line on Mount Baker Highway and collided with her car early Jan. 4, 2007.

French spent 45 days in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the crash and has undergone numerous surgeries as a result of her injuries. Brett said the money would pay for her medical bills and any additional surgeries she may need.

“She was relieved that she is going to have her medical bills paid for for the rest of her life,” Brett said. “She’s just going to try to take care of her body. She’s going to try to live as normal of a life as she can.”

The jury found that the county and the State Patrol were negligent in not preventing Parker from driving drunk before the crash. Parker admitted her negligence before the trial began.

Parker was found passed out behind the wheel at the intersection of Sunset Drive and Barkley Boulevard hours before the crash. State Patrol Trooper Chad Bosman arrested and cited Parker for DUI but did not impound her car, release her to a sober person or book her into the Whatcom County Jail.

Rather, Bosman drove Parker 9 miles to her home on Lake Whatcom, gave her back her keys and told her not to drive until she sobered up. After the trooper left, Parker called a cab to go back to her car. She began driving east on Mount Baker Highway before turning around and colliding with French.

French’s lawsuit alleged the county was negligent because it was supervising Parker while she was on deferred prosecution for a prior DUI arrest. Parker was supposed to be driving with an ignition interlock device but never had one installed in her car. The jury found the county was negligent for failing to check to see if the device was installed.

Article Courtesy Peter Jensen & The Bellingham Herald - 715-2264 or peter.jensen@bellinghamherald.com.