Family Files $45 Million Claim against City of Seattle after Fatal Crash

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the family of a husband and wife killed in a tragic crash in Northeast Seattle is now suing the city for not taking the proper measures to take the driver off the road. The man, Mark Mullan, who hit the couple, failed field sobriety tests and had a BAC of 0.22 percent shortly before the crash occurred.

The couple, Judith and Dennis Schlute, was walking across Wedgewood Street with their daughter-in-law and ten-day-old grandson in March 2013 when Mullan slammed his pick-up into them. Their daughter-in-law and infant grandson were badly injured but, fortunately, not killed.

At the time, Mullan was under supervision of the Seattle Municipal Court due to previous drunk driving arrests. Police confirm that Mullan was drunk on that fateful day, but defied court orders to install an interlock device on this truck. Interlock devices, which are mandatory in many states even for first-time DUI offenders, require drivers to blow into a breathalyzer to prove they are sober before they can start their car.

In their claim, the surviving Schulte family stated that the city did not properly supervise Mullan, failing to enforce the terms and conditions of his probation. Had they adequately done so, they argue, the March 2013 collision would never have occurred. Mullan pleaded not guilty to multiple charges after the crash.

The man was arrested twice in the few months before the fatal crash, both in Seattle and Snohomish Counties, for driving under the influence. He was ordered by the court to install an ignition interlock, however, he never did so.

He told officers at the scene of the crash that he had consumed one drink earlier in the day, and that he did not see the pedestrians because the sun was in his eyes. He went on to tell officers that he did not break until he felt the “bump” of the pedestrians on his car.

The infant is currently at home in Seattle with his father, recovering. His mother had to be admitted to a nursing home, where she is now re-learning how to swallow, walk, and speak. The claim was filed on behalf of six Schulte family members, who are seeking damages for physical, emotional, and mental injuries, as well as medical expenses and lost wages, to the tune of $45 million.

The family told the Seattle Times that, though their monetary damages seem high, no amount will ever return to them what Mullan took. The city has 60 days to respond to the claim before the Schulte’s can officially file in court. The family is also considering legal action against Mullan.

In related news out of Seattle, a city police officer recently pled guilty to lesser charges after initially being charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence. The officer, Marie Gochnour, was ultimately sentenced to two days in jail, though she was originally supposed to serve one year for her crime.

The officer, along with a second officer Sean Moore, were off-duty in December 2012 when they were arrested for slamming into a pole near First Avenue South and South Lander Street in Seattle. According to the 911 police responders, Gochnour stopped her Nissan Altima in the middle of the street and switched places with Moore before police arrived.

Both were administered breathalyzers, Gochnour blowing a 0.247 percent (Mullan’s BAC was 0.22 percent when he killed the Schulte’s). Moore tested in a 0.161 percent, still over the state’s 0.08 percent legal limit. At the scene, Gochnour cursed at the arresting officers, acted in an aggressive manner, and flicked them off.

Both off-duty officers were charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence in March 2013, which was ultimately reduced to reckless driving. Apparently, the city had trouble locating the person who originally called 911 after the accident, which contributed to the lesser charge. She will spend just two days in jail now, instead of the original 364. Moore is scheduled to reappear in in court September 3 of this year.

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have been advocating on behalf of victims of such crashes for over twenty years, and have won millions for our clients. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an auto accident caused by the negligence of another, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress, and should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.

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