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AP: State Lawsuit Payouts Rise Under McKenna's Watch

By Josh Feit December 6, 2011

AP reporter Mike Baker has a story today showing that lawsuit payouts by state agencies have grown by $70 million when compared to Gov. Chris Gregoire's time as attorney general.
During his 2004 campaign for attorney general, Rob McKenna vowed that he would use the position to curb how much state agencies pay out for major lawsuits. Instead, those costs have grown rapidly under his watch.

Washington agencies disbursed $76 million for tort claims last year — three times more than was spent the year before McKenna took office, according to documents released to The Associated Press. The state has paid out about $300 million over the past six years.

The amount the state pays out for claims can fluctuate dramatically each year because one case can have a major impact. Last year the state paid out an $8 million settlement for a man who is now a quadriplegic as the result of a bike accident in which his front tire got caught in a gap between two steel grates on the Montlake Bridge in Seattle.

But the $300 million paid out in the first six full years of McKenna's leadership is about $70 million more than was paid out during Gregoire's final six years before she became governor. The highest year ever occurred in a 2001 spike, during Gregoire's time, when the state paid out $85 million.

In his 2004 campaign, McKenna complained about the high costs being passed along to taxpayers. He said at the time that he would help the state avoid lawsuits by making sure "rogue bureaucrats" follow the law, and he wrote on his campaign website that his work would minimize big lawsuit payouts.

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