King County appeals $ 7million jury prize to ex-public defender harassed by ex-client

King County is appealing the verdict of a $ 7 million jury awarded in October to a former public defender who suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after being harassed by a former client.

Sheila LaRose, 58, filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court in 2015, seeking damages for the harm she suffered at the hands of a serial stalker who became obsessed with her during his portrayal of him in a criminal harassment case in 2012.

He repeatedly called her at work, and after her release from prison in August 2013, he left female underwear on his car, showed up unexpectedly near her workplace, filled in his letterbox of literature explaining the procedure for a woman to convert to Islam in order to get married. a Muslim man, and finally looked out of his bedroom window, court records show.

The Seattle Times ran an article last month about LaRose’s multi-year legal battle. Her stalker, now 48, is currently incarcerated at Clallam Bay Correctional Center for failing to register as a sex offender and will be available for release no earlier than November 2, 2022.

The jury couldn’t find LaRose’s law firm, The Defender Association, now known as the Public Defender Association, responsible for LaRose’s injuries. But jurors found King County responsible for its sexist hostile work environment after the Defender Association became one of four divisions of the King County Department of Public Defense on July 1, 2013.

LaRose’s lawsuit, filed in November 2015, alleged a sexist hostile work environment under Washington’s anti-discrimination law because of the former client’s conduct. The issue of a third party or an unemployed stalker was a clear unprecedented case in the state and the lawsuit was twice dismissed on summary judgment.

The state Court of Appeals, however, adopted the federal standard that an employer can be held liable for harassment of an employee by a non-employee and overturned the layoffs.

It is this legal standard that now appears to be at the heart of the county’s appeal.

“Judicial decisions of the first instance court would wrongly hold employers liable for third party criminal acts that occur outside the workplace, even if an employer has no practical capacity to control such third party acts. No existing case law supports such a broad theory of employer liability, ”wrote Chase Gallagher, executive spokesperson for Dow Constatine, in an emailed statement.

Her statement continued, “We are sympathetic to what Ms LaRose had to endure with her former client, but King County taxpayers should not be held responsible for the criminal acts of a third party outside the county workplace. . Important legal issues in this case must be carefully considered and resolved on appeal. “

Court records show that King County requested payment of the $ 7 million in damages for LaRose’s fear and anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, angst, emotional distress, pain and suffering, as well as the loss of past and future wages and benefits, be suspended until the appeal is heard.

“It’s tough on Sheila,” Mary Ruth Mann, one of three attorneys who represented LaRose in the civil lawsuit, said Tuesday, noting that it typically takes about a year for an appeal to be heard.

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