The Skagit County Jury in Washington State decided against the Washington State Patrol and the County this past week. The jury decided this past week that Whatcom County must pay $5.5 million for not taking enough preventative measures to stop a drunk driver who seriously injured another motorist in a 2007 head-on collision.

According to attorney Dean Brett, this jury verdict is the largest ever in Skagit County.

The accident occurred on Jan. 4, 2007 on Highway 542, when a drunk driver crossed the centerline. The vehicle then collided head-on into a car driven by Hailey French, who was 22-years-old at the time. French suffered severe injuries to her legs, pelvis and wrists. She has already undergone 13 surgeries and is expected to undergo many more.

Brett, her attorney, filed a lawsuit on French’s behalf in October 2007.

“We sue drunk drivers – and those who enable them to wreak havoc on our highways. This catch-and-release system of dealing with drunk drivers must stop,” said Brett.

He then named the Washington State Patrol and Whatcom County as defendants, rather than the woman whom committed the crime.

“The accident occurred one hour and 39 minutes after a State Trooper drove a drunk driver home, returned her keys, and told her not to drive again until after she was sober,” Brett said. “Instead, she called a taxi, returned to her car, drove drunk and crossed the centerline hitting Hailey French head-on.”

Brett also noted that the drunk driver had been sentenced on a prior drunk driving charge and was required to have an alcohol interlock installed in her car. However, the Whatcom County District Court Probation Department failed to follow up on the court-ordered installation, according to Brett.

Following a three-week trial, the jury concluded the State Patrol and Whatcom County had been negligent and awarded damages to French in the amount of $5.5 million.

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