Taggart v. State

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Citation822 P.2d 243,118 Wn.2d 195
Docket Number56398-5,No. 56341-1,56341-1
PartiesVictoria TAGGART, Appellant, v. STATE of Washington, Respondent. Shane SANDAU, Appellant, v. STATE of Washington, Respondent.
Decision Date09 January 1992

Page 195

118 Wn.2d 195
822 P.2d 243
Victoria TAGGART, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Washington, Respondent.
Shane SANDAU, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Washington, Respondent.
No. 56341-1, 56398-5.
Supreme Court of Washington,
En Banc.
Jan. 9, 1992.

[822 P.2d 244] Castle, Schnautz, Hilfer & Leemon,

Page 198

Mark Leemon, Seattle, for appellants.

Kenneth O. Eikenberry, Atty. Gen., Michael E. Tardif, Sr., Jon P. Ferguson, Steven L. Abel, Francois L. Fischer, Asst. Attys. Gen., Seattle, for respondent.

Fred Diamondstone, Seattle, amicus curiae for appellants on behalf of Families and Friends of Missing Persons and Violent Crime Victims.

CALLOW, Judge, Pro Tem.

Shane Sandau and Victoria Taggart were injured by parolees in separate assaults. Taggart raised claims against the State of Washington and its agents for allegedly negligent parole release and supervision. Sandau raised only negligent parole supervision claims. The trial courts in each case granted the defendant's motions for summary judgment and dismissed. The cases have been consolidated and are before this court on direct review. The questions presented are: (1) whether immunity shields the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board 1 (Board) or individual parole officers from claims alleging negligent parole release or supervision; (2) whether the public duty doctrine bars

Page 199

Taggart's and Sandau's claims alleging negligent parole supervision; and (3) whether as a matter of law neither the State nor its agents proximately caused Sandau's or Taggart's injuries.

We hold that the Board is entitled to absolute immunity for its release decisions, and affirm the trial court's dismissal of Taggart's negligent release claim. We hold that parole officers' supervisory actions are entitled to only qualified immunity, the absence of which Taggart and Sandau should have been given the opportunity to demonstrate at trial. As regards the public duty doctrine and proximate causation, we hold that neither provided a proper basis for dismissing the negligent supervision[822 P.2d 245] claims. We reverse and remand those claims for trial.

FACTS

The trial courts in these cases dismissed the plaintiffs' claims on the State's motions for summary judgment. This court must therefore engage in the same inquiry as the trial court, considering all facts submitted and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving parties. Wilson v. Steinbach, 98 Wash.2d 434, 437, 656 P.2d 1030 (1982).

Taggart v. State

Parolee Louie Brock assaulted Taggart on April 16, 1985. Brock had an extensive juvenile and adult criminal history. At the age of 15 he was referred to the juvenile court on charges of first degree burglary, having been initially charged with attempted rape. While still a juvenile, Brock was also charged with assault and another attempted rape. Brock's first conviction as an adult was in 1970, at the age of 18, for assault with intent to commit rape. The victim was a 70-year-old woman. At that time, Brock was diagnosed as exhibiting sexual deviation, episodic excessive drinking, antisocial personality, and passive aggressive personality. Brock was released from prison on parole in 1974, only to be arrested 2 months later for the assault and attempted rape of a 75-year-old woman. Both the 1970 and

Page 200

the 1974 attempted rapes involved alcohol abuse. In 1981, Brock was again paroled, and again was arrested within a year, this time for stealing a car, driving while intoxicated, and resisting arrest. At that time Brock was evaluated asbeing highly susceptible to alcohol abuse, and was reported to have missed counseling appointments and to have no interest or motivation for counseling.

Just prior to his third parole release in September 1984, Brock completed a 6-month counseling program that addressed sexual offender tendencies and substance abuse. Brock did well in this program. The program's deputy executive director described him as "amicable, cooperative, energetic, hard-working, [and] self-sufficient." Prior to his release, Brock prepared a preparole referral plan, which was investigated by parole officer Leda Richardson. Richardson recommended approval of the plan, subject to special conditions, including that Brock complete a substance abuse program and submit to urinalysis testing to ensure that he was not using drugs or alcohol during parole.

A Board meeting was held on September 10, 1984, to evaluate Brock's eligibility for parole. Two members of the Board were present. At that meeting, the Board considered extensive materials, including Richardson's report, Brock's preparole referral plan, and Brock's criminal history, psychological evaluations, and history of institutional conduct. On the basis of this material, the Board decided to release Brock on parole, effective September 24.

Upon his release, Brock entered a halfway house for recently released prisoners. He left the halfway house after 4 months. Richardson, who became Brock's parole supervisor, did not require that he obtain further counseling after that. At no time did Richardson require that Brock submit to urinalysis. Her monitoring of Brock consisted of seeing him weekly in her office. Richardson never contacted Brock's employers or girl friend about Brock. If she had, she probably would have learned that Brock was drinking regularly.

Brock's assault on Taggart occurred in April 1985, after he had been on parole approximately 7 months. Not previously

Page 201

acquainted, they met in a bar and socialized briefly. Brock left the bar shortly before Taggart. When Taggart left and walked out to her car, she found Brock in the parking lot waiting for her. He demanded that she give him a ride to a bus stop, and she agreed. Once they were in the car, he ordered her to turn down a side street. Taggart instead pulled into a 7-11 store parking lot and asked Brock to get out of the car. He then attacked her, causing serious injuries.

Sandau v. State

Parolee Keith Geyman repeatedly raped Shane Sandau on September 21, 1984. Sandau was 9 years old at the time. Like Brock, Geyman had an extensive juvenile and adult criminal history. At the time of [822 P.2d 246] his parole on February 15, 1984, he was serving a sentence for second degree assault in which he had stabbed a man in the chest. An alcoholic, Geyman was usually intoxicated when he committed his crimes. The Board directed him to enter the Kitsap County Alcoholism Recovery Program upon release. Geyman completed the program on March 14, 1984, and reported to his parole officer, Richard Van Stralen, the next day. On March 20, Van Stralen received a report that Geyman was drinking, contrary to the conditions of his parole, and that he was threatening his ex-wife's husband. Van Stralen did not follow up on the report, and on March 21 Geyman's supervision was transferred to James Kairoff.

Geyman met with Kairoff on April 5, 1984. Kairoff asked Geyman about the report of drinking and threats. Geyman said the report was false and Kairoff did not investigate further. After this April 5 meeting, Geyman did not report on a monthly basis as required. Although Geyman was a "maximum supervision" parolee, Kairoff took no further action until July 27, 1984, when he called Geyman's brother Gilbert. Geyman's parole conditions required that he live and work with Gilbert. Gilbert told Kairoff that Geyman was no longer living or working with him, and that he had left no forwarding address. Geyman was thus violating parole. Kairoff completed a violation report and suspended

Page 202

Geyman's parole. The parole warrant, however, was never entered into the state computer.

On September 18, Kairoff received a phone call from a woman identifying herself as "Diana". Diana told Kairoff that Geyman was in Missoula, Montana, that he had been beating his girl friend and her children, and that he was drinking and bragging of his status as a parolee and of his crimes. The girl friend was Wanda Hazel, Sandau's mother. Kairoff then spoke with Detective Rick Newlon from the Missoula sheriff's department. Newlon confirmed Diana's report, and said Hazel feared Geyman but that no local charges had been filed. Newlon also said that Geyman could be arrested on a local misdemeanor charge, but was concerned that Geyman could make bail on that charge. Newlon, therefore, said he would prefer to make the arrest on the basis of a Washington parole warrant. Kairoff received a phone call from Hazel the same day. She indicated that she was the victim described by Diana, and that she was undecided whether to file charges against Geyman. She also wanted to know about Geyman's convictions.

In response to these calls, Kairoff immediately attempted to obtain a "fast entry" warrant. He contacted a supervisor, Art Wheeler, who told him to prepare another violation report and written request for warrant. Kairoff expressed concern to Wheeler that the matter should be handled more quickly, but proceeded as Wheeler recommended. Also on September 18, Montana law enforcement authorities sent a teletype to the Board indicating that they had spoken with Kairoff that morning and believed a teletype parole warrant would be forthcoming. They stated that they had officers "standing by" to arrest Geyman. This teletype was received and routed to hearing officer James Prentice. Prentice's usual practice was to act on such a teletype the day he received it and forward it to the members of the Board immediately. For some reason, however, Prentice took no immediate action. Geyman remained free, and 2 days later,

Page 203

on September 20, he raped Sandau. Unaware of the rape but concerned about the risk Geyman posed, the Montana authorities arrested Geyman on the outstanding local misdemeanor on September 23. Also unaware of the rape, Prentice responded to the Montana authorities' extradition request on September 27, recommending against extradition. The Board overruled him the next day,...

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