Parents Sued the County for Alleged Negligent Probation Supervision

Bishop and Hertog ex rel. S.A.H. v. City of Seattle, 138 Wn.2d 265, 979 P.2d 400 (1999) involved a negligence claim by the parents of a child killed in an automobile accident caused by a King County probationer, Steven Miche, who was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Bishop, 137 Wn.2d at 521. Suit was filed against the County claiming its probation supervision was negligent. Id. Prior to the accident, the district court refused to revoke Miche's probation despite repeated probation violations. Bishop, 137 Wn.2d at 523. The Court held that the district court's action precluded the existence of cause in fact as a matter of law, in essence serving as a superseding intervening cause, thereby absolving the County of liability. Bishop, 137 Wn.2d at 532. Of principal importance in Bishop was the district court's awareness of all material information in the case at the time of its decision. Bishop, 137 Wn.2d at 531-32. As the Court stated: The judge knew that Miche had violated the court-imposed condition of his probation by driving while his license was suspended. He knew that Miche had an alcohol problem but attended meetings somewhat sporadically. He knew that Miche was scheduled to attend intensive alcohol treatment within three days, and thus knew that Miche was not then in such treatment and that Miche needed such treatment. Nevertheless, despite Miche's violation of his probation conditions, the obvious severity of his alcohol problem, and the fact that Miche knowingly drove after his license had been suspended, the judge did not revoke probation. the accident occurred only two days later, one day before Miche's scheduled treatment was to begin. As a matter of law, the judge's decision not to revoke probation under these circumstances broke any causal connection between any negligence and the accident. Id.