State will pay $325,000 in settlement with attorney
M. GILLESPIE; The Associated Press
The state Attorney General's Office has settled a lawsuit brought
by a former employee who was fired after being blamed for missing
a deadline in appealing an $18 million verdict against the state four
U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly approved the $325,000 settlement
Friday and dismissed Janet Capps' lawsuit, which had sought $3 million
The settlement awards Capps $195,000, a full-time job with the state
Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, three annual $10,000
raises and $100,000 to cover her attorney's fees.
Her job, which will not entail any legal work, will pay $50,000 and
start Aug. 1.
"We are delighted and thrilled that a very painful experience
for my client is behind her and that she can be a productive employee
for the state of Washington as she always has been," said Capps'
attorney, Suzanne Thomas.
Attorney General Christine Gregoire, who's seeking the Democratic
nomination in the governor's race, said she was relieved to have settled
the case, estimating that it would have cost taxpayers more than $500,000
if it had gone to trial.
"I consider this a compassionate and reasonable settlement to
a very unfortunate mistake," Gregoire said. "Obviously taxpayers
are well-served by the settlement, in light of what it would've cost
to go to trial."
Capps was one of four attorneys who defended the state in the case
of three developmentally disabled men who were sexually and physically
abused in a state-licensed adult family home in Bremerton.
When the plaintiffs won the case in 2000, the $17.8 million judgment
was the largest personal-injury verdict ever lodged against the state.
The Attorney General's Office vowed to appeal but missed a crucial
deadline. Gregoire's office didn't learn of its mistake until 10 days
after the filing deadline had passed and blamed Capps for it.
Capps contended she was scapegoated.
In a statement submitted to the court, the Attorney General's Office
said it recently learned of pre-existing medical conditions Capps
was being treated for at the time, which it "believes provides
a partial explanation for the events surrounding the missed appeal."
Thomas refused to disclose what the medical condition was, saying
a court order barred her from doing so. "Her medical stuff has
nothing to do with anything, so we're certainly not going to talk
about it," Thomas added.
Gregoire, however, said she would have handled the case differently
had she known about Capps' medical condition four years ago. "Had
we known then what we know now ... we would have done something to
get help for this individual," Gregoire said.
Gregoire also suggested that the state Court of Appeals would not
have ruled against the state when it filed an appeal requesting a
10-day extension of the deadline her office missed.
"We're relieved it's over, but I've got to tell you, we were
ready to go to trial," Gregoire said. "But in the end, I
have to look at the costs of going to trial ... and I wanted this
individual to get on with her life."
Zilly dismissed Capps' lawsuit with prejudice, which means she cannot
bring any further legal action against the state related to this case.
Gregoire's campaign manager, Tim Zenk, released a statement calling
the settlement "a tremendous boost for Chris' campaign,"
saying the Attorney General's Office has won about 99 percent of the
250,000 cases it has handled in Gregoire's 12-year tenure.
"I know Chris' opponents had pinned their hope of winning the
election on Chris losing in the courtroom," Zenk said. "But
now the case has been brought to a successful end. So that won't happen."