Woman, Daughter Receive $9.3 Million Settlement after Car Crash Involving Man on Probation

Cayla Wilson was 19 years old and five months pregnant when another driver, who was high on methamphetamines and on probation for previous crimes, smashed a Jeep Wrangler into her Buick as she drove through a Portland, Ore., intersection in April 2010.

The crash was so devastating that Wilson suffered severe brain damage and has since been in a permanent vegetative state with limited brain activity, according to a Feb. 6 report by KGW News 8 in Portland. Her baby was delivered prematurely by emergency Caesarean section about six weeks after the crash as doctors worked feverishly to keep her alive. Both mother and daughter suffered difficult medical complications that continue today.

Following the tragic crash and the injuries to the mother and daughter, Wilson’s parents, Bill and Denise Wilson, filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland and against Clackamas County in Oregon, alleging that neither government entity took the proper precautions to prevent the driver of the Jeep – who was out on parole at the time – from harming their daughter and grand-daughter in the crash.

The family won their lawsuit when the City of Portland and Clackamas County officials both agreed to pay a combined settlement of $9.3 million for the ongoing care of Wilson and her daughter, JaiKyla, who is now three years old, according to a Feb. 6 story in The Oregonian. The settlement was announced 15 minutes after the attorneys in the case completed their closing arguments and before the 12-person jury began deliberating the case, the paper reported.

The crash that left the mother and daughter critically injured occurred April 15, 2010, when Wilson’s Buick was struck by a Jeep being driven by Jack Dean Whiteaker, who was driving while high on meth, The Oregonian reported. Much of the testimony in the case hinged on the fact that several 911 calls came in to authorities describing Whiteaker being high on drugs and acting strangely in the hours before the crash, but that law enforcement officers did not take him into custody despite encountering him on the streets at least twice before the Wilsons were injured, the report continued.

“A few hours later, Whiteaker veered into an oncoming lane on Gresham’s Southeast Jenne Road and struck Cayla Wilson’s Buick,” the story said. “Wilson was about five months pregnant. JaiKyla Wilson was born about three months premature. She weighed 2 pounds and 3 ounces, suffered bleeding near her brain, a brain injury and underwent at least eight surgeries.”

Cayla Wilson’s injuries will continue to require 24 hour-a-day care for the rest of her life.

The city of Portland will pay $4.5 million to the family for the care of Wilson and her daughter, , while Clackamas County will pay $4.8 million, the paper reported.

Whiteaker had been on probation for a drug-related conviction since June 2009, but repeatedly failed to follow the terms of his probation, the paper reported.

What makes this case particularly interesting is that the police department and probation department were both sued due to the conduct of their officers, which is very rare. Most of the time, such public agencies cannot be directly sued.

And remarkably in this case, according to The Oregonian, the settlement is the largest ever reached so far against a public-safety agency in that state.

On the other hand, this case raises a disturbing issue about whether a similar settlement could ever be reached here in Pennsylvania.

The answer, tragically, is that it could not. Had such a horrific crash occurred in Pennsylvania under similar conditions involving a person on probation, the victims could only recover $500,000 from the Commonwealth or $500,000 from the City of Philadelphia due to the archaic laws currently on the books protecting the Commonwealth and its cities from larger awards regardless of the damage that they cause.

That is absolutely absurd and unfair to victims and their families who can face years and decades of constant medical care as well as severe pain and suffering following devastating injuries caused by others.

In Pennsylvania, this sorry state of affairs is certainly a travesty for every victim of life-changing injuries who cannot by law recover adequate damages to cover their expenses into the future.

These kinds of cases occur every day when innocent victims are hurt or killed in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.