It’s not every day that a DUI case involves the city where the defendant lives, but the City of Seattle is learning that it does happen, and it could be liable for an alcohol-related crash that killed two people and injured two others.
Back in March of 2013, Dennis and Judy Schulte were walking with their daughter-in-law Karina and their newborn grandson Elias. A pickup truck, driven by Mark, W. Mullan, crashed into and killed the couple and critically injured their daughter-in-law and grandson.
This wasn’t Mullan’s first drunk driving arrest. He was on his fifth DUI case when he crashed into the family, and shortly after the family launched a lawsuit that included the City of Seattle. The reason? After his last DUI in December of 2012, Mullan was on probation and supervised by a probation officer working for the Seattle Municipal Court.
He was required to install an ignition interlock and should have been checked on at home by the probation officer. The department failed to visit his home within ten days of his release from jail and they didn’t visit him for the two in-person contacts per month that were also required.
According to the family, those visits would have been enough to notify the probation officer and the court that Mullan wasn’t following through on his rehab, he hadn’t installed his ignition interlock, and he was violating the terms of his probation by drinking alcohol. They allege that if he’d been forced to install the ignition interlock, he wouldn’t have been able to drive drunk and they wouldn’t have been torn apart by this tragedy.
The City of Seattle has attempted to remove itself from the lawsuit several times, but after losing appeals, they are now facing judgement from a King County jury. For his part Mullan was sentenced to 18 years in prison in November 2013 after he made the decision to plead guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault, and violating the Washington ignition interlock law.
Washington State has since changed its DUI laws to require an offender to install their required ignition interlock within 5 days of conviction, and a judge has to set a follow up date to ensure it’s installed.
There’s going to be a lot of people following this DUI case, and if the City of Seattle is found responsible for the deaths and injury of the Schulte family, it could set an important precedent for other drunk driving crashes.