Partner of man killed during Lynnwood Police pursuit files million-dollar claim for damages

The roommate and partner of the man killed in an accident that ended in a Lynnwood Police Department pursuit on May 24 has filed a Claim for Damages against the City of Lynnwood, claiming the police department was negligent, reckless and violated police policy the night of the fatal collision.

The attorney for Don McCarthy has filed the claim paperwork and is leaving open the option of suing the city if a settlement isn’t reached; the Claim for Damages is for “$1,000,000+.”

Jerry Bennett, 72, died from injuries sustained when a van driven by Shellie Rose Collins, which struck Bennett’s van at the intersection of 212th Street Southwest and 44th Avenue West in Mountlake Terrace. At the time of the accident, Collins was trying to elude Lynnwood police in a three-mile chase through Lynnwood at speeds of more than 80 miles an hour. Collins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July and is now serving a 21-year, eight-month prison sentence.

The Claim for Damages against the City of Lynnwood was filed on June 25; jurisdictions generally have 60 days to respond to a claim before court litigation can be filed. Although the 60-day window has passed, no lawsuit has been filed as of yet, said attorney Scott Blair. “We want to give the city every opportunity to respond to our claim before we file any legal action,” Blair said.

The $1 million-plus claim is for loss of earnings and pain and suffering, Blair said. “The Estate of Jerry Bennett has sustained lost earnings to the estate exceeding $1,000,000, along with pre-death pain and suffering in an amount yet to be determined, but believed to exceed $200,000,” states the Claim for Damages.

The claim asserts that Lynnwood police should have backed off from pursuing Collins when she “began racing at high rates of speeds towards two of the most crowded intersections within Lynnwood as well as running red lights prior to the collision that ultimately killed Mr. Bennett.”

“Because the police continued their pursuit as opposed to calling off the pursuit when it was obvious the suspect was endangering the lives of numerous innocent citizens, the suspect continued to drive through the red light at 212th and struck the decedent Jerry Bennett,” the claim states.

“The City of Lynnwood Police Department violated its own police pursuit policies by negligently and recklessly pursuing a vehicle at speeds exceeding 80 mph through crowded intersections and densely populated urban areas of Lynnwood,” the claim asserts.

Bennett never married and had no children; his estate is willed to McCarthy, his roommate and partner of 10 years, Blair said.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith assisted McCarthy with finding a lawyer and getting Bennett’s estate and financial affairs in order. Smith said Bennett was a friend and occasional business partner. “He (had) lived down in the hole on 236th,” Smith said, “where all the new houses are. He used to own a business; they made all these Formica enclosures for tubs, even for my house. I helped him clear his property years ago. Then we were on-going partners on a property.”

Some 10 years ago, Bennett moved to a house in unincorporated Snohomish County north of Brier. “I moved all his stuff out there for him,” Smith explained.

Smith began his role with the Bennett estate soon after his death. “His partner, the guy that was living with him, was already in the hospital,” Smith said. “He had just fallen off the porch and broke his shoulder. He had just gone into rehab when they called me. I went out there to talk to him. That’s when he asked me to take care of him. So that’s how I got involved.”

Smith explained that he is only serving as a legal caretaker of the Bennett estate; “I have no claim in it,” he said. But there may be distant relatives – reportedly cousins in Canada – that may contest the will. “I have nothing to do with the cousins; I don’t even know who they are,” Smith said.

“It’s going to be a big bucket of worms for a long time to come,” Smith added.

Blair said Smith and Bennett were friends for 30 years, and called the Mayor “a stand-up guy” for getting the Bennett estate in order. “Jerry started the process and now he’s out of the picture,” Blair said.

– By Doug Petrowski/MLT News editor

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