$8.8 million award to provide Linda David the care she needs
Seattle Times staff reporter
The state of Washington has agreed to pay a record $8.8 million to Linda David, an Edmonds woman who was allegedly held captive and abused by her husband while the state paid him to be her caregiver.
The settlement - reached by attorneys Wednesday night following a daylong mediation session in San Francisco - is the largest ever granted by the state to a single individual, according to statistics provided by Jury Verdicts Northwest, a legal reporting service.
The settlement will alter the 51-year-old battered woman's life forever, says Lynne Riensche, executive director of Partners In Care, a nonprofit organization that provides David's court-appointed guardianship.
The money will pay for David to receive improved medical treatment as well as 24-hour care by two or more caretakers. It also means David - whose most precious memories are of the horses from her childhood - will have the opportunity to ride a horse, said Riensche.
"The one thing we want to see is Linda experiencing the horse ride again," she said.
David was rescued in January 1997 from her husband's rotting 30-foot sailboat. She was found jammed into the bow, covered with debris and surrounded by seven growling German shepherds. She was brain-damaged and emaciated, unable to walk, and her limbs were deformed from untreated fractures.
The state had been paying her husband, Victor David, to be her caretaker. He has since been charged by Snohomish County prosecutors with repeatedly assaulting his wife.
"Our system isn't perfect at the end of the day," Attorney General Christine Gregoire said after the settlement was reached. "It can't undo the injury to Linda David."
Gregoire said she decided the state should seek a settlement after she reviewed the case in mid-June. Her aides met for two days with officials from the governor's office, the Department of Social and Health Services, the state's risk-management office and legislative leaders later that month.
"The challenge was to right the wrong and ensure taxpayers were treated justly, and I believe the settlement does that," Gregoire said.
Final papers are being drafted to ensure the settlement will not allow Victor David to get any of the money that will be awarded to his wife, even if she were to die.
"The funds cannot be reached by Victor in any manner whatsoever," said Linda David's attorney, David P. Moody, of Gordon Thomas Honeywell Malanca Peterson & Daheim.
In a statement released by Gregoire and Gov. Gary Locke, Locke said the settlement will help give David the care she needs.
"Mrs. David's particularly desperate plight deeply affected us all, and collectively we must respond to her needs," the governor said.
After David was rescued from the sailboat, Everett police allowed Victor David to go free. The state attorney general's office investigated and determined there had been abuse, but the case stalled.
Victor David wasn't arrested or charged for 2 1/2 years - until two days after The Seattle Times published a story detailing the case. He is currently in jail.
Though Victor David said his wife had MS, no medical reports showed that, and more recent examinations confirm her symptoms were caused by abuse.
Medical reports as far back as 1979 indicated Linda David had been physically abused and that DSHS caseworkers had raised questions about her care.
But caseworkers stopped visiting the boat in 1988 and stopped seeing her altogether in 1993.
Revelations about the case last year led to changes at DSHS and in the way police and prosecutors investigate crimes against the disabled.
Locke and Gregoire's statement noted that more funds are being provided for case managers and that the Adult Protective Services department's workers are better trained and have lower caseloads.
Gregoire and Locke noted that the Legislature has approved the Vulnerable Adults Statute, which clarifies who is required to report abuse and neglect and how it is to be reported.
The law also included clients receiving home-care services, as Linda David was, in the definition of a vulnerable adult.
Moody filed suit on Linda David's behalf Dec. 1, asking for $55 million in damages. Trial was set for March 2001, in Snohomish County Superior Court.
The Attorney General's Office contacted Moody's office proposing a settlement June 14, the same day the news broke that the attorney general had missed the deadline to appeal a verdict in another record-setting case Moody filed against the state.
In that case a jury awarded $17.8 million to three developmentally disabled men who were sexually abused in a state-licensed home. The state missed the deadline for appealing the verdict - the largest ever rendered against the state.
In a court hearing today, the state will argue it should be allowed to still file the appeal.
Gregoire said the timing in the two cases was coincidental.
Last week, Moody and Riensche arranged for The Seattle Times to conduct the first authorized media interview with Linda David. It was published last Sunday. They declined to say whether that had anything to do with the negotiations.
The mediation was conducted by Antonio Piazza, a prominent San Francisco attorney, who shuttled proposals between the two parties, who were gathered in separate offices. A deal was struck about 8 p.m.
"I went down there with a goal, and we knew exactly what it would be. This amount meets and even exceeds that," Moody said.
Under the state's self-insurance program, the taxpayer will foot about $5 million of the $8.8 million settlement, and a consortium of insurance companies will pay the remainder.
Partners in Care will oversee management of the money paid to David.
Details were not released about how much of the settlement amount will go to David's attorneys; the typical arrangement in such cases gives one-third of the amount to the plaintiff's attorneys.
Seattle Times staff reporter Anne Koch contributed to this report.
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