More MS news articles for July 2000

State to pay $8.8 million in abuse suit

Husband accused of abusing woman aboard boat, leaving her disabled

July 14, 2000

Hunter T. George - Associated Press

OLYMPIA _ The state will pay $8.8 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of Linda David, the woman allegedly abused into disability while kept aboard a filthy sailboat.

The settlement, which resolves claims that the state failed to protect her, was announced Thursday by Gov. Gary Locke and Attorney General Christine Gregoire. They issued a joint statement saying the money will allow the 51-year-old David to receive the quality care she will need for the rest of her life.

"Mrs. David's particularly desperate plight deeply affected us all, and collectively we must respond to her needs," Locke said.

David's case sparked outrage and prompted national attention, as well as big changes in the way state social workers oversee "vulnerable" adults who receive state assistance for their disabilities.

David started receiving disability payments in 1984 for what was believed to be multiple sclerosis. Her lawyer has since challenged that diagnosis and said her problems stemmed from longterm abuse that could have been prevented had social workers acted upon warning signs.

David later started receiving additional state money for a caregiver of her choice. She chose her husband, Victor.

When found in 1997 on the sailboat moored near Everett, Linda David was jammed into the bow of her husband's 30-foot boat, covered with dog vomit and feces from the seven German shepherds that also lived aboard. Doctors said she was brain-damaged to the point of immobility and had numerous untreated fractures on her arms, legs and fingers.

Her face remains disfigured by scar tissue and she uses a wheelchair. She now lives in a Snohomish County nursing home.

Snohomish County prosecutors have charged Victor David with assaulting his wife. In January, he was ruled competent to stand trial, and trial is tentatively scheduled to begin Sept. 18. He has said he is innocent.

Linda David's lawyer, David P. Moody of Seattle, sued the state last year for $55 million, alleging staff for the Department of Social and Health Services failed to protect her and were negligent in continuing to pay Victor David to care for his wife.

Moody was not immediately available for comment. He said recently that he wants his client to receive 24-hour care and intensive physical and other therapy, and that such work will require at least two full-time caregivers.

The state settlement, which includes legal fees, identifies Victor David as the abuser and prohibits him from collecting any of the money.

Pierce County, which was a target of a separate $5 million lawsuit for negligence since county workers handled the David case for a time, has agreed to pay $200,000. But that settlement has not yet received final approval, Gregoire spokesman Fred Olson said.

Gregoire said the state did its best to compensate Linda David for injuries that cannot be reversed.

"The challenge was to right the wrong and ensure taxpayers were treated justly, and I believe the settlement does that," Gregoire said.

That marked a reversal from earlier this year, when her office said the state's primary defense at trial would be that DSHS had no obligation to protect David from abuse. The fact she was receiving public assistance did not entitle her to be shielded by the state from domestic violence, the attorney general's office said in April.

Thursday's settlement was reached following a daylong mediation session in San Francisco led by mediator Antonio Piazza. The case had been scheduled for trial next March.

The settlement was reached a day before Moody and the state square off in court in a somewhat similar case.

In March, a Pierce County jury awarded $17.8 million to three disabled men whose families said the state should never have licensed a Bremerton group home. Relatives said the men were abused there.

Gregoire's office missed the deadline to appeal the verdict. On Friday, her office will ask the state Court of Appeals to grant an extension so an appeal can be filed.

The Bremerton case is one of a half-dozen or so that claim people might have been saved from suffering had state workers been more vigilant.

Since the Linda David case came to light, Locke noted, the state has authorized more funding for case managers so they now have no more than 85 cases, a vast improvement over the 150-cases-per-worker ratio before 1995.

Last year, the Legislature clarified who is required to report suspected abuse and neglect, and expanded the definition of "vulnerable adults" to include people like Linda David who receive home care services.

Legislation passed this year requires increased background checks for those who work with vulnerable adults, as well as more training for caregivers.