Appeals judges uphold $ 7.5 million jury award against Spokane County

Appeals judges upheld a $ 7.5 million jury prize against Spokane County in a case involving a woman who was left paralyzed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident that occurred in 2011.

Lawyers representing Spokane County appealed the jury’s decision, but three judges from the Division III Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld the earlier verdict, which was delivered in 2017.

The jury awarded Madelynn M. Tapken $ 12.5 million, but concluded that Spokane County was only responsible for 60% of the condition of the roadway where the collision occurred. As a result, Tapken’s price was $ 7.5 million.

“In this second appeal, Spokane County attributes errors to the rulings of the lower courts,” Judge George Fearing wrote for the court of appeal. “We uphold all decisions, except for a decision authorizing Conrad Malinak to recover the medical costs. “

Tapken’s lawyer Roger Felice has praised the latest ruling in a case that has been going on for years.

“It’s been a long journey. We’ve tried the deal twice, ”Felice said. “But the family is thrilled and she is a remarkable young woman. It is a tragedy, but under the circumstances, they are satisfied ”with the new decision.

Spokane County Risk Manager Steve Bartel was not available Friday to say whether the county would attempt to appeal the latest decision to the state Supreme Court.

The case began on September 28, 2011, when Tapken, who was 20 at the time, got on a motorcycle with Conrad Malinak. They drove south of Spokane and crashed at a fork in the road known as “Waverly Y” on Prairie View Road, which is limited to 45 mph.

During the trial, county employees testified that the maximum safe speed for the curve at the intersection was 20 mph, but the county had no warning sign to this effect. Additionally, a large hawthorn bush blocked Malinak’s view of the sharp curve to the right, his lawyer said.

The lawsuit alleged the intersection was the scene of about two dozen single-car crashes before 2011, but Spokane County Superior Court Judge Timothy Fennessy allowed only three of those crashes. to be discussed during the three-week trial.

Bartel acknowledged that the county, since the motorcycle accident, had put up more warning signs and cut the hawthorn bush. But, he said, “that in itself had nothing to do with the accident.”

In addition to keeping the $ 7.5 million for Tapken, the appellate judges referred Malinak’s case to a judge for another trial on his claim for general damages.

Lawyer Lawrence Garvin, who assisted lawyer David Michaud in arguing the case on behalf of Malinak, made no comment when reached on Friday.

Felice said he expects the county to try to appeal Tapken’s $ 7.5 million jury prize to the Washington Supreme Court.

“I am confident enough that nothing will change from the court’s point of view,” Felice said. “It would be better if they allowed this to move forward and end it.”

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