Citizens have the right to expect their law enforcement officials to keep their promise to serve and protect. However, when this does not happen, when dangerous individuals are allowed to move freely through society, the outcome can be tragic. For a young woman and her child, the system failed and now the city of Portland and Clackamas County have taken financial responsibility.
The city and county have agreed to pay a 23-year-old mother and her 3-year-old daughter $9.3 million in damages. The settlement offer comes on the heels of closing arguments of a lawsuit brought by the woman and child's family. In the lawsuit, the family argued that a 2010 car accident involving the woman and a mentally ill and drug addicted man could have been prevented had the man's probation officer or a police officer who encountered him twice on the day of the accident acted appropriately.
The woman, who was around five months' pregnant at the time of the accident, has been left bedridden and unable to care for herself. Her daughter was born about a month after the accident. She has cerebral palsy, believed to be caused by the accident and premature delivery.
The man who struck them had been on probation since 2009 after a drug-related conviction. According to the lawsuit, he ignored probation conditions, skipped probation office meetings, didn't attend required drug treatment and blew off court fees. His probation officer failed to keep track of him; when she finally filed the paperwork to revoke his probation, the man could not be located.
But then the case turns even more tragic. A Portland police officer had two encounters with the man on the day of the accident. The officer responded to two different 911 calls that noted the man was acting in a suspicious manner. Both times, the officer let him go, believing she did not have probable cause to arrest him. It was also revealed that although the probation officer had revoked the man's probation, that information was not available to the officer.
The case highlights the problems created by an overworked parole office and the lack of communication between departments. When a system fails and people suffer personal injury, those who are negatively impacted have a right to seek compensation. Anyone considering this approach should seek the guidance of an experienced legal professional to determine what rights to compensation might exist.
Source: The Oregonian, "Cayla Wilson trial: $9.3 million settlement possibly largest by an Oregon city or county" Aimee Green, Feb. 06, 2014