Washington state jails are overcrowded, so—presumably to avoid lawsuits over overcrowding—Washington State Patrol policy is to arrest nonviolent offenders without jailing them. In the case of Bellingham resident Janine Parker, drunk driving in the early morning hours of January 4, Trooper Chad Bosman arrested her, and drove her home, telling her not to drive until she was sober. Nevertheless, Parker, an hour later, found a taxi to take her nine miles to her car left by the side of the road, and drove drunk head on into Hailey French’s auto, causing the innocent 22-year-old driver many injuries.
French sued Parker, of course, but also the Washington State Patrol and Whatcom County (the latter apparently failed to put an ignition-interlock device in her car as Parker’s probation from an earlier conviction provided). (Miraculously, she doesn’t seem to have sued the taxi company.) A Skagit County jury found the two governmental entities jointly liable for $5.5 million. According to press accounts, the two defense attorneys each tried to get the jury to blame the other deep pocket: apparently, making the suggestion the person responsible for the drunk driving was the person responsible was beyond either hope or comprehension, though a web commenter to the article claims that Parker testified that the accident was entirely her fault. (Peter Jensen, “Whatcom County woman’s suit against county, State Patrol in jury’s hands”, Bellingham Herald, Apr. 24; May 1 post-trial press release of victorious plaintiff’s attorney).