House Judiciary Committee hears about growing liability for cities and counties

The Olympian

Olympia, WA - 4/11/03 -Lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee got a glimpse of a coming governmental crisis Thursday -- the growing liability exposure of cities, counties and other local entities.

Among those testifying was Gayla Gjertsen, Tumwater finance director, who said her city's payments for liability insurance rose by some $70,000 this year alone to nearly $330,000. It's part of a 70 percent increase since 1999.

Driving the costs are rising levels of exposure that governments face. And that is triggered by new duties imposed by courts that require probation or supervision of suspects and offenders, as well as jury awards and legislative mandates that cover mentally ill offenders and people committed involuntarily into mental-health facilities, said Rep. Pat Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.

After hearing testimony from county and city officials for two hours, Lantz said she plans several work sessions during the summer to look at the complex factors at play.

Some action to limit liability is needed, Gjertsen said. One approach could be to apportion blame in vehicle accidents to include an injured person if the person wasn't wearing a seat belt and therefore suffered additional injuries.


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