News

July 24, 2015

Darrell L. Cochran Named 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year

Tacoma attorney Darrell Cochran was named Trial Lawyer of the Year on Friday by the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ).  Cochran is managing partner of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, PLLC.  The award, named after the late Washington Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers, honors “a lawyer who advances the art and skill of advocacy, either in trial or by training others so as to benefit humankind,” according the WSAJ.

“I’ve been really lucky to have worked for years alongside great partners and supporting staff, and the award tells us that we’ve managed to make a lasting, positive impact with the job we are doing,” Cochran said after receiving the award.  “I’ve made a career out of the thing I love to do most; fight “to give a voice to the folks who would otherwise suffer silently.”  Cochran grew up in Olympia, went to Olympia High School and has been an attorney practicing primarily out of the Puget Sound region since 1993.

Cochran made headlines earlier this year as lead counsel in a class-action case against MultiCare Health System and a California collection agency MultiCare hired, Hunter Donaldson.  The case involved improper liens placed by Hunter Donaldson on MultiCare patients’ court settlements after they were injured due to another person’s negligence.  Hunter Donaldson was not registered as a collection agency with the state and was using a fraudulent notary to file its liens with the county recorder’s office.  A Pierce County judge approved a $7.5 million settlement with MultiCare and the patients affected by the improper medical services liens back in January.

The lawsuit, and the circumstances surrounding the suit, lead the Washington State Legislature to enact a bill this year which requires collection agencies to be licensed by the state before attempting to collect on medical services liens on behalf of healthcare providers.  The law also requires full disclosure if medical services liens are used and mandates that a written release of lien rights be delivered to the patient when the medical bill is paid.

Also this year, Cochran received a win from the state Court of Appeals when it upheld a nearly $1.5 million jury verdict on appeal against the Olympia School District for failing to protect a student from being molested by one of the district’s school bus drivers, Gary Shafer.  Since the initial lawsuit, Cochran has filed five others against the district, including the latest in January involving a special needs student who was also sexually assaulted by Shafer.

Darrell Cochran - Trial Lawyer of the Year 2015

July 15, 2015

Sexually assaulted girl awarded $754,000 from Clover Park schools

A Pierce County jury has decided the Clover Park School District owes a developmentally disabled girl more than $754,000 for failing to protect her from a troubled classmate who sexually assaulted her in a school bathroom.

In a verdict handed down last week, the jury also awarded $7,500 each to the parents of the middle school student for damages they suffered as a result of their daughter’s trauma.

The parents sued the district in 2013, contending it knew the boy who attacked their daughter had a history of acting out sexually. The district, they alleged, failed to protect their daughter from him.

“As a result of the district negligence, (the girl) has been traumatized, suffering PTSD, and becoming anxious and withdrawn,” their attorney, Loren Cochran, wrote last month in a trial brief.

“Additionally, her parents have suffered immense anger, grief and mental anguish at what happened to their daughter on the day she was sexually assaulted at school.”

The district admitted it was negligent in its supervision of the boy, but its attorneys argued at trial that the girl deserved damages of no more than $50,000.

“Given her cognitive ability, it is unlikely the girl experienced many of the psychological issues customarily associated with sexual assault, such as feeling guilty or damaged,” the district’s attorney, William Coats, wrote in his trial brief.

The attack occurred Jan. 28, 2011, at Lochburn Middle School.

The girl, then 11, was having lunch in the school cafeteria when the boy, then 13, pulled her into a bathroom and sexually assaulted her while two other boys watched, court records show.

The boy, also developmentally disabled, later told school officials he’d pulled down the girl’s pants and “touched his private area to her private area,” even as she asked him to stop, the records show.

The girl emerged from the bathroom visibly upset a few minutes later and told a school employee what happened.

Two months before, school officials found the boy in a bathroom engaged in sexual touching with another boy.

As a result of that incident, the 13-year-old boy was prohibited from using student bathrooms and “could only use the nurse’s bathroom under supervision,” court records show.

“The teacher at Lochburn followed this directive when (the boy) left her classroom for bathroom privileges, but there was no plan in place to supervise him during unstructured times, such as lunch and recess,” Coats said in his trial brief.

“When the incident … occurred, there was no apparent supervision of the students, and they were allowed to leave the cafeteria and enter the boys’ bathroom unnoticed.”

Cochran contended the district compounded its negligence by failing to immediately disclose to the girl’s parents the details of the assault or to offer the family counseling services.

Coats countered that the family was offered counseling through a local hospital where the girl was examined, but they did not take advantage of it.

The girl finished out the school year at Lochburn before moving out of state with her family, court records show.

The district transferred the boy to Hudtloff Middle School, where he sexually assaulted a boy while being briefly left unsupervised, court records show. In 2013, the district agreed to pay the victim in that case $275,000 as part of a settlement.

Lakewood police investigated the incidents, but the boy — described in school records as impulsive and of extremely low cognitive ability — was never charged with a crime.

Instead, he was referred to a diversion program designed to provide early intervention and rehabilitation to trouble youth.

A team assembled by the school district determined the boy’s actions in the Lochburn incident were “a manifestation of his disability,” and his expulsion was converted to a short-term suspension.

He’s since left the district and is thought to be living in Montana, court records show.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 adam.lynn@thenewstribune.com @TNTAdam

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/07/12/3910845_sexually-assaulted-girl-wins-754000.html

May 18, 2015

Seattle Archdiocese Settles Abuse Case During Trial for $1,200,000

Days before trial, the Seattle Archdiocese admitted it acted negligently and recklessly inflicted severe emotional distress on the plaintiff. 

(Bellingham)  —  A 63-year old Sedro Woolley woman at trial against the Seattle Archdiocese has settled her case for $1,200,000, just days before closing arguments were to begin in the two-week jury trial.

The plaintiff, Jeri Hubbard, was sexually abused in the late-1960s and early-1970s by former priest Michael Cody, who served as pastor of St. Charles Parish in Burlington, Washington, and Assumption Parish in Bellingham, Washington, during that time period.

Father Michael Cody, Seattle Archdiocese Abuser

Father Michael Cody, Seattle Archdiocese Abuser

The Seattle Archdiocese admitted at trial that it was liable for the abuse because it knew Cody had been diagnosed as a pedophile, and failed to protect children after it transferred him from parish to parish. 

Father Cody had previously served at St. Luke Parish in Seattle; Holy Family Parish in Seattle; St. James Cathedral in Seattle; Holy Family Parish in Auburn; and, Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner.  He was then transferred to St. Charles Parish in Burlington and Assumption Parish in Bellingham, followed by St. Margaret Parish in Seattle. 

During the course of the litigation, Ms. Hubbard learned that a psychiatrist in 1962 advised former Seattle Archbishop Thomas Connelly that Cody had molested at least eight girls in the past year and diagnosed Cody as a pedophile.  Archbishop Connelly eventually sent Cody to treatment, but allowed him to return and eventually transferred him to St. Charles Parish.

Ms. Hubbard filed suit against the Archdiocese in 2012 in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Washington.  The Seattle Archdiocese denied plaintiff’s allegations for more than two years, but just days before the trial began, it admitted liability for the abuse. 

One of Ms. Hubbard’s attorneys, Seattle attorney Michael T. Pfau, says he suspects the Archdiocese admitted fault to keep the jury from hearing evidence.  “I don’t think they wanted the jury to hear the full story, so they had to admit they acted both negligently and outrageously in order to keep out evidence regarding their fault.  They had to admit they recklessly inflicted severe emotional distress on a young girl, which is a rather damaging admission.”

In one of her opening instructions to the jury, Judge Deborra Garrett acknowledged the Archdiocese’s admission of liability:  “Ms. Hubbard contends, and the Archdiocese does not dispute, that the Archdiocese’s appointment of Father Cody to Ms. Hubbard’s parish was negligent and reckless, and caused Ms. Hubbard severe emotional distress.”

According to Mt. Vernon attorney John W. Murphy, who co-represented Ms. Hubbard with Pfau and Rand F. Jack,” the Archdiocese’s admissions may play a role in resolving other cases:  “I’m proud of Jeri because she would not settle without getting to tell her story to a jury.  She could have settled earlier, but she made the Archdiocese admit in court that it knew it was moving a sexual predator into our community.  It is now on record for her case and for future cases.”

Pfau says the timing of the case was unique. “The records we’ve been given on Father Cody go back to the early 1960s.  The 1962 record describing his diagnosis as a pedophile may be the earliest remaining record regarding a priest in the Seattle Archdiocese posing a danger to children, at least that I’ve seen in representing abuse survivors.”

Ms. Hubbard was jointly represented in the jury trial by Michael Pfau of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC in Seattle, Washington, John W. Murphy of Mt. Vernon, Washington, and Rand F. Jack of Bellingham, Washington.

 

April 6, 2015

Questions about Premera IT Department Pre-Date Breach

Even before the private information of more than 11 million Premera Blue Cross customers was compromised by hacked servers, the health insurers’ information technology [IT] department was in turmoil.

PCVA has learned that in June, 2011, Primera had to pay a class action settlement of $1.45 million dollars after a group of its current and former IT employees sued over the company’s illegal practice of failing to pay overtime and other benefits in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA.

Premera, and its subsidiaries LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon and LifeWise Assurances Co., employs hundreds of technical support workers nationwide.

Premera’s past practices within its IT department will be one of the focuses of the lawsuit filed by PCVA in the wake of the personal data breach of its insurance customers.

Premera officials were silent for over a month-and-a-half as it customers’ personal identifiers – including names, credit card information, bank account numbers and social security numbers – were exposed to hackers.

There are state and federal laws that require businesses to notify customers immediately after an online data breach like the one Primera discovered in January.

The Mountlake Terrace-based health insurer apparently ignored state and federal auditors’ recommendations that it update its software and internet security after finding that it was particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks and malware breaches.

The confidential information breach lawsuit filed Primera was filed on March 23, 2015, in U.S. District Court in Seattle, by PCVA attorney Darrell Cochran, (Hoirup et al v. Premera Blue Cross; 2:15-cv-00445-MJP).

PCVA is a Pacific Northwest trial law firm with offices in Seattle and Tacoma.  If you are interested in finding out more about the lawsuit or PCVA, please visit premeralawsuit.com.

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March 19, 2015

Medical Liens Bill SHB1503 is heard after our MultiCare Lawsuit

A state lawmaker who represents Tacoma wants to tighten some aspects of medical lien law, in response to some billing practices brought to light by a lawsuit against Pierce County’s largest private employer, MultiCare Health Systems.

The bill by Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, would more tightly regulate any third-party vendors who issue medical liens, as well as to require medical providers to tell patients up front that they use medical liens as part of their billing practices. The bill also creates a way for a person to collect damages if a medical lien isn’t immediately removed when a person pays the debt.

“I try not to do bills about single incidents,” Jinkins said Wednesday. However, she said this legislation is “a warning shot” to ensure other health systems walk the line on use of medical liens.

“We want to see how the medical systems react,” she said.

State law allows some health-care providers, including hospitals and doctors, to seek medical liens to recover the cost of providing care to patients who have no medical insurance or other ways to pay. Medical liens — essentially a claim for payment — show up on credit reports and can make it hard, for example, for a person to buy or sell property.

In the case of MultiCare, a group of former MultiCare patients sued the health system and its third-party vendor, a California-based company, alleging it had filed thousands of liens improperly starting in 2010. The vendor used a notary public who was illegally registered in Washington state to file many of the liens, the patients alleged.

MultiCare denied wrongdoing and blamed its vendor and a former employee for the aggressive collection practices. The vendor was fired and filed for bankruptcy protection, and the employee no longer works for MultiCare.

The health system settled the lawsuit last fall for $7.5 million.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/03/19/3697345_legislature-considering-changes.html

March 19, 2015

Premera Data Breach Exposes Personal Data on 11M Subscribers

Update: We have set up a separate website dedicated to providing information about the Premera Data Breach.  Please visit there and find out how we can help.  We have filed a class action lawsuit and are taking clients now.

Social Security numbers, Dates of Birth, email addresses, mailing addresses, and more were potentially exposed in what Premera Blue Cross is calling a “sophisticated cyberattack.”  The attack happened May 5, 2014, but wasn’t discovered until January 29, 2015.  This likely means that the hackers had access to Premera’s data for more than 8 months.  If you were a Premera subscriber between those dates, it is likely that your personal information has been compromised.

What kind of personal information was available to the hackers?

  • Full name
  • Social security number
  • Bank Account information
  • Date of Birth
  • Address
  • Email Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Claims information, including clinical information

PCVA is investigating a class action lawsuit and is looking for Premera clients who think their data has been compromised.  According to this Seattle Times article, Premera learned about its technical vulnerabilities 3 weeks before the breach from federal auditors.  Premera received the findings and 10 recommendations April 18, 2014, more than 2 weeks before the breach.

Identity theft a real concern

Identity theft a real concern

With the right information, a hacker can wreak havoc on a person’s life.  Your tax return can be stolen, or subverted by a hacker with your SSN and address.  Your bank’s customer service center may authenticate “you” by your address, date of birth, and a few digits of your social security number.  Someone can file for unemployment in your name, causing a big headache for you and your boss.  Of course, there’s the old standby of using your information to open new credit accounts and racking up huge balances that will affect your credit score.

This attack on Premera was discovered around the same time as a similar attack on Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurance company, was disclosed by the FTC.  In that data breach, hackers stole information on as many as 80 million people.

What can you do?

Premera is offering 2 years of free credit monitoring that can help with some of the concerns.  PremeraUpdate.com has information about that.  You can stay vigilant and watch your credit.  You can call your bank and add a phone passcode to require that one extra step that can save your accounts.

Class Action Lawsuit

Our law firm is investigating the possibility of a class action lawsuit against Premera for failing to protect your personal information and causing harm to its 11 million subscribers.  If you were a Premera subscriber or if you have Premera insurance coverage through your employer, we would love to hear from you and discuss the potential for legal action against Premera.  Please contact us today for a free consultation.

March 16, 2015

Blue Bell Ice Cream Products Linked to Listeriosis Outbreak

Have you purchased single-serving Blue Bell Creameries ice cream products within the past year?  If so, you may be at risk of listeriosis, a rare but serious illness caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.  Various media outlets and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have reported that certain Blue Bell products tested in South Carolina and Texas have tested positive for multiple strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium.  These products were all manufactured on a single production line at Blue Bell’s Brenham, Texas production facility, and distributed for sale to consumers in stores and to hospital food services.  After consuming Blue Bell products manufactured at the Brenham facility, five patients in a Kansas hospital developed listeriosis; three have died.  Blue Bell has issued a recall for a number of its products (listed below).

Blue Bell Ice Cream

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, chills, and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.  Anyone developing these symptoms after eating the ice cream should seek medical care and tell their doctor about any history of eating the ice cream. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food.

Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

If you or a family member has eaten one of these products and gotten sick, we would love to hear from you and discuss the potential for legal action against Blue Bell.  Please contact us today for a free consultation.

List of Blue Bell Products Believed To Pose A Risk

For your convenience, we have provided a list of Blue Bell ice cream products, along with their product codes, believed to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and recalled by Blue Bell.  Blue Bell’s recall includes only the products listed below and does not include any Blue Bell cups, pints, or half gallons.

Chocolate Chip Country Cookie SKU # 196
Great Divide Bar SKU #108
Sour Pop Green Apple Bar SKU #221
Cotton Candy Bar SKU #216
Scoops SKU #117
Vanilla Stick Slices SKU #964
Almond Bars SKU #156
6 pack Cotton Candy Bars SKU #245
6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars SKU #249
12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars* SKU #343
March 4, 2015

Lumber Liquidators Laminate Flooring May Be Leaching Formaldehyde Into Your Home

Have you purchased laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators between January 1, 2011, and now? If so, you may be at risk from exposure to any formaldehyde leaching from the laminate flooring. As 60 Minutes recently reported, Lumber Liquidators has marketed its Chinese-made laminate flooring as CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant, which sets strict standards for formaldehyde emissions in wood flooring. However, laboratory testing has shown that the formaldehyde emissions from this Chinese-made laminate flooring grossly exceeds safety standards, sometimes by as much as thirteen times over the limit. Labs testing this laminate flooring have said that they have never seen formaldehyde levels so high.

The risk posed by formaldehyde exposure is significant. Short-term exposure to formaldehyde causes burning eyes, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness, and joint pain and nausea. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde is linked to cancer of the nose and sinuses, nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, and worsening of asthma. The risks posed by formaldehyde exposure are particularly high when, like laminate flooring, the source is inside your home, leaching formaldehyde into the air you breathe every day.

If you have purchased some of this laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators, we would love to hear from you and discuss the potential for legal action against Lumber Liquidators. Our law firm has extensive experience in bringing complex class action lawsuits on behalf of thousands of wronged individuals, such as securing a payment of $85,000,000 to thousands of in-home care providers cheated out of wages by the State and a $7,500,000 payment to thousands of victims of fraudulent medical bill collections. Please contact us today for a free consultation.

List of Lumber Liquidators Laminate Flooring Believed to Pose a Risk

For your convenience, we have provided a list of Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring products believed to pose a risk of emitting unsafe level of formaldehyde. This list is not definite or comprehensive, however, and other products may also emit unsafe levels:

  • 8 mm Dream Home Nirvana Royal Mahogany Laminate Flooring
  • 8 mm Dream Home Nirvana French Oak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri Poplar Forest Oak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Antique Bamboo Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Oceanside Plank Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Warm Springs Chestnut Laminate Flooring
  • 15 mm Dream Home St. James Sky Lakes Pine Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Imperial Teak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Vintner’s Reserve Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Cape Doctor Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Golden-Acacia Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Sandy Hills Hickory Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Tanzanian Wenge Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri America’s Mission Olive Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Golden Teak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Summer Retreat Teak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Glacier Peak Poplar Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Brazilian Koa Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Blacksburg Barn Board Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Nantucket Beech Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Chimney Rock Charcoal Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James African Mahogany Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Fumed African Ironwood Laminate Flooring
February 3, 2015

Abuse Survivor Settles with DSHS for $2,500,000

Our client, M.M., recently settled her case against DSHS for $2,500,000.  Her case arose from sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster parent, Lester Drappeaux, who DSHS licensed to be a foster parent despite the fact that he was a convicted sex offender.

In December 1971, Lester Drappeaux was working as a janitor for the Snohomish School District when he was terminated over allegations that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor student.  The local prosecutor brought charges against Drappeaux, who pled guilty to taking indecent liberties with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

From 1972 to 1974, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”) oversaw Drappeaux’s probation for the sex crime conviction.   However, just four years later, DSHS granted Drappeaux a license to be a foster parent, despite a Washington law that disqualified sex offenders from becoming a foster parent.

PCVA attorney Jason P. Amala, who has brought a number of cases against the State of Washington on behalf of abuse survivors, says the mistake occurred at a time DSHS was being warned that its system was broken:  “Lester Drappeaux was licensed just two years after the state auditor publicly warned DSHS that its system was broken, and that sex offenders like Drappeaux were in the foster care program and abusing children.  We saw no evidence DSHS did anything meaningful in response to those warnings.”

The State of Washington took custody of M.M. in 1979, when she was about five years old.  That same year, DSHS placed M.M. in the Drappeaux foster home for the first time.  She was placed in and out of the home a number of times until 1986, when she was permanently placed in the home until she graduated from high school in 1992.

In deposition and court records, M.M. testified the abuse began when she was first placed in the home and escalated over time, eventually happening once or twice a week.  Drappeaux threatened to kill her and the other foster children in the home if she told anyone what he was doing to her.  M.M. thought she was protecting other children, but records filed with the court show that Drappeaux abused a number of other foster children who were placed in his care.

M.M.’s lawsuit was not based solely on DSHS licensing a convicted sex offender.  According to Amala, DSHS made an egregious mistake in February 1992 when it received a report that Drappeaux’s step-daughter alleged he had sexually abused her, and that she was concerned for the foster children in his home because he had spent time in jail for having sex with a minor.  But M.M. provided the court with records that suggest DSHS’s investigator closed her investigation when the step-daughter did not return her phone calls.  According to Amala, the lack of action fell far below the standard of care:  “Nothing else was done.  They could have walked a few blocks to the courthouse and pulled his criminal file.  Or they could have at least confronted him or his wife.  Instead, they made a few phone calls and closed their file.  Even their own expert witness testified this was a massive breach of the standard of care.  One of their witnesses testified she was ‘shocked’ at what was done, but she was one of the people that was supposed to have done something.”

Drappeaux kept his license for three more years, until 1995, when DSHS received another report regarding him.  Initially, investigators were prepared to close the investigation, but a supervisor ordered them to continue.  A subsequent FBI check revealed Drappeux had a long criminal history, including the conviction for indecent liberties with a minor.  When pressed to take a lie detector test, Mr. Drappeux turned in his foster license.

Amala says the evidence suggests DSHS and its workers were simply too fond of the Drappeaux foster home and lost their objectivity, particularly as it was one of the few foster homes for Native American children.  “Perhaps the most remarkable fact we discovered is that DSHS awarded Mr. Drappeaux the “Foster Parent of the Year” award in 1995, at the same time that it was conducting a second investigation into allegations that he abused children.”

January 30, 2015

Supplemental Budget Passes, DSHS Lawsuit Win

KOMO News released a story yesterday stating that the Statehouse has passed an unusual supplemental budget to deal with several issues, including a lawsuit that PCVA and our partners in the case, Livengood Alskog, brought against the Department of Social and Health Services. We took that case to trial in December 2010 and won a verdict of over $57,000,000. As the article states, interest accrues at a rate of rougly $20,000 per day, so paying it off now is “better than waiting months…” The text of the article by AP reporter Derrick Nunnally is below:

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – The Washington state House on Thursday agreed to spend nearly $300 million on a supplemental budget for expenses from last year’s wildfires and the deadly Oso landslide to social-services spending on child abuse and mental-health cases.

The supplemental budget bill passed the Democratic-controlled House on a bipartisan 83-15 vote. It now moves to the Senate, where Republicans lead the majority caucus, before going to Gov. Jay Inslee for approval. The money will cover a range of state programs, with the largest share going toward expenses from responding to natural disasters, including the mudslide and multiple wildfires in the eastern half of the state last summer.

“It’s a little unusual to do a supplemental budget this early in a legislative session, but last year was an unusual year,” Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said in a prepared statement.

Other money in the bill addresses lawsuits the state lost last year over the treatment of mentally ill patients and in-home care workers. The amount to pay off the caregiver lawsuit grows by $20,000 in interest each day, several lawmakers noted, which makes paying it off now better than waiting months for the Legislature to approve its full two-year budget later in the legislative session.

“We know we’re going to pay it in two to three months anyway,” said Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, who voted for the bill.

Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, voted against it and said the money to combat wildfires didn’t properly address a “complete and utter lack of management of public lands” that caused the fires to be so damaging.

“We’re doing nothing to take care of the issue,” Taylor said. “We’re just throwing more money at it, over and over.”

The same bill also moves up this year’s deadline for the state’s economic and revenue forecast to Feb. 20 in hopes of expediting a budget agreement in a year where lawmakers are trying to address a projected shortfall of more than $2 billion.
Read the article on KOMO News: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Supplemental-budget-passes-Washington-House-290274691.html

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