Binschus v. State, Dep't of Corr.

Decision Date23 February 2015
Docket NumberNo. 71752–9–I.,71752–9–I.
Citation345 P.3d 818,186 Wash.App. 77
PartiesFred BINSCHUS, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Julie Ann Binschus; Tonya Fenton; Trisha Woods; Tammy Morris ; Joann Gillum, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Gregory N. Gillum; Carla J. Lange, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Leroy B. Lang; Nicholas Lee Lange, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Chester M. Rose; Stacy Rose, Individually; Richard Treston and Carol Treston, and the marital community thereof; Ben Mercado; and Pamela Radcliffe, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of David Radcliffe, Appellants, v. STATE of Washington, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; Skagit Emergency Communications Center d/b/a “Skagit 911,” an interlocal government agency; Skagit County, a political subdivision of the State of Washington; Okanogan County, a political subdivision of the State of Washington, Respondents.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals

Eugene Ronald Moses, Law Offices of Gene R. Moses P. S., Dean Ralph Brett, Brett Murphy Coats Knapp McCandlis Brown, Bellingham, WA, W. Mitchell Cogdill, Attorney at Law, Everett, WA, Nathan Paul Roberts, John Robert Connelly Jr., Connelly Law Offices, Tacoma, WA, Jaime Drozd Allen, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Jeffrey Duane Dunbar, Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC, Philip Albert Talmadge, Talmadge/Fitzpatrick, Seattle, WA, for Appellants.

Mark Richard Bucklin, Keating Bucklin & McCormack Inc. PS, Seattle, WA, for Defendant.

Mark Richard Bucklin, Keating Bucklin & McCormack Inc. PS, Paul J. Triesch, Attorney General's Ofc., Joshua Choate, Office of the Washington State Attorney, Seattle, WA, A.O. Denny, Skagit County Prosecutor's Office, Mount Vernon, WA, Christopher Joseph Kerley, Evans, Craven & Lackie, P.S., Spokane, WA, John Edward Justice, Law Lyman Daniel Kamerrer et al, Olympia, WA, for Respondents.

Opinion

TRICKEY, J.

¶ 1 On September 2, 2008, Isaac Zamora killed six people and injured several others. Shortly before the tragic incident, Zamora had been incarcerated in Skagit County and Okanogan County Jails for committing non-violent crimes. At the time of the shooting, Zamora was experiencing a psychotic episode.

¶ 2 The estates of five people Zamora killed, together with four people he injured (collectively Binschus), brought the present lawsuit against Okanagan and Skagit Counties, Skagit Emergency Communications Center (Skagit 911), and Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), alleging negligence. Binschus claimed, among other things, that, although the counties knew or should have known of Zamora's deteriorating mental illness during his incarceration, they failed to provide a thorough mental evaluation and appropriate treatment for his schizophrenia. The trial court granted Okanogan and Skagit Counties' motions for summary judgment, concluding that the counties owed no duty to the victims and, even if they did, Binschus failed to prove proximate causation.

¶ 3 On appeal, Binschus contends that the trial court erred in granting the counties' motions for summary judgment, arguing that the counties owed a legal duty to protect the victims from Zamora's violent propensities because the counties (1) had a “take charge” relationship with Zamora under §§ 315 and 319 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965) or (2) committed misfeasance under § 302B of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.1 Binschus additionally argues that the counties' purported breach was the cause in fact of the victims' injuries.

¶ 4 We hold that, with regard to Skagit County, material issues of fact precludes summary judgment on the question of whether §§ 315 and 319 imposed a legal duty upon the counties. We further hold that material issues of fact remain as to whether the alleged breach was the cause in fact of the victims' injuries. We hold, however, that a duty is not established under § 302B. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for additional proceedings.

FACTS

¶ 5 Zamora “had a long-standing psychiatric disorder that began to emerge when Zamora was in his late-teens, more than a decade before the incident on September 2, 2008.”2 In May 2000, Zamora began experiencing symptoms of insomnia, paranoia, and anger. In 2003, Zamora was involuntarily committed at North Sound Evaluation and Treatment Center, where he endorsed hallucinations and was prescribed an antipsychotic medication that is commonly used for treatment of schizophrenia. According to Binschus's expert psychiatrist, Dr. Csaba Hegyvary, Zamora was not given a proper diagnosis at that time.

Skagit County Jail

¶ 6 On April 4, 2008, Skagit County police officers responded to Zamora's parents' residence to investigate a 911 hang-up call from the residence. The officers soon discovered that Skagit County District Court had issued warrants for Zamora's arrest. Zamora complained of a sore shoulder when arrested. As a result, the officers transported Zamora to a local hospital to determine whether he was fit for jail. The hospital subsequently released Zamora, who then was transported to Skagit County Jail.

¶ 7 Zamora remained in the Skagit County Jail pending trial and his eventual guilty pleas. On May 15, 2008, the Skagit County Superior Court sentenced him to six months of confinement for malicious mischief in the second degree and possession of a controlled substance. The six-month term was to be followed by 12 months of community supervision by DOC. Under the community supervision provision of the judgment and sentence, the trial court ordered “mental health eval/treatment” and “drug evaluation to comply with all treatment recommendation.”3 The trial court did not make any specific findings regarding Zamora's mental health.

¶ 8 Zamora remained in custody and began serving his sentence at the Skagit County Jail. The jail housed Zamora in a jail unit known as “C–Pod.”4 The C–Pod unit is more secure and isolated than other units in the jail. The Skagit County Jail would place a particular class of inmates in the C–Pod unit: inmates who fought with others; who threatened the general population of the jail; who were considered “anti-social;” who had severe behavioral issues; who were in protective custody; and who had mental health issues.5

¶ 9 During his time at the jail, Zamora's mother, Dennise Zamora,6 made several requests to the Skagit County Jail and the county prosecutor, asking that Zamora receive mental health assistance. Dennise made such a request to the jail on April 7, 2008. She informed the Skagit County Jail that Zamora was bipolar, aggressive, and had anger problems. Dennise added that Zamora refused to obtain treatment and medication. She also reported that she and her husband were in fear of Zamora. In response, on April 11, 2008, Stephanie Inslee, a licensed mental health care professional, visited Zamora at the jail. In a document referred to as Skagit County Jail Multi–Purpose Request Form,” Inslee noted:

Persecutorial thoughts, easily moved into rageful thinking, ... feels victimized by just about everyone in his world. Some grandiosity about his education / intelligence and his role in the world: to fix the crazy systems, make people treat him better. Very focused on the issue of chronic pain and poor.... Reports anxiety ... sounds like panic attack. He needs something!
Recommend beginning Lamictal : He is paranoid about poison and not messing w/ his brain. Can a person in medical please meet with him if meds are approved and address his fears? [ 7 ]

¶ 10 Three days later, a physician approved the Lamictal prescription. According to Dr. Hegyvary, Lamictal is prescribed for seizure disorders and commonly used as a mood stabilizer. Lamictal is not an antipsychotic medication.

¶ 11 On April 23, 2008, another mental health counselor, Cindy Maxwell, saw Zamora after he submitted a mental health request. According to the Skagit County Multi–Purpose Request Form memorializing that visit, Zamora was refusing to take the Lamictal medication.8 Zamora told Maxwell, however, that he was only taking the prescription because it helped him sleep. He said that he preferred to refrain from taking any type of mental health medications. In addition, Zamora expressed extreme anger toward his mother for calling the jail. Maxwell noted that Zamora appeared upset, easily angered, and that his speech was rambling. Maxwell recommended that the jail continue to offer Zamora “psych. meds.”9

¶ 12 On May 10, 2008, Zamora submitted a request to see a mental health counselor. He reported that he was seeing black dots and white flashes. The request form does not indicate whether jail staff responded to his request.

¶ 13 The only evidence of any violent occurrence involving Zamora was a jail record reporting that another inmate attacked Zamora and was charged with assaulting Zamora. Otherwise, there were reports describing Zamora's insolent demeanor toward jail staff. Most commonly, however, Zamora complained that he was not receiving adequate medical care for his fractured clavicle and protested his placement in the C–Pod unit.

Okanogan County Jail

¶ 14 On May 29, 2008, Skagit County Jail transferred Zamora to the Okanogan County Jail. At the time of Zamora's transfer, Okanogan County Jail was a party to a contract with Skagit County Jail for the housing of Skagit County Jail inmates. During the term of the contract, when a Skagit County Jail inmate was transferred to Okanogan County Jail, Skagit County Jail would prepare a Skagit County Jail Transport Form,” which was usually sent to Okanogan County Jail in advance of the inmate's arrival.10 The form identified the inmate, provided basic information about the Skagit County charges for which the inmate was serving time, indicated whether the inmate presented a risk of escape or violence, and listed the inmate's release date.

¶ 15 The contract required that Skagit County Jail send all of an inmate's medical records when it transferred an inmate to ...

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1 cases
  • Binschus v. State
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • September 22, 2016
    ...the victims and whether a breach of that alleged duty was the proximate cause of the injuries to the victims. Binschus v. Dep't of Corr. , 186 Wash.App. 77, 81, 345 P.3d 818 (2015). We granted Skagit County's petition for review. 184 Wash.2d 1001, 357 P.3d 665 (2015). ISSUE ¶7 Did the trial......

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