Forks settles claim of negligence

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — An 18-year-old Forks woman and her parents have received a $375,000 settlement from the city of Forks.

The settlement, paid with insurance funds, resolves the family’s claims that the city was negligent in hiring a former police officer who allegedly had sexual contact with the young woman Aug. 12, 2008, when she was 12.

Former Officer Erik A. Hanson, 38, who was hired in January 2007, originally was charged with second-degree rape of a child in April 2009 and was terminated in July of that year.

He pleaded guilty in October 2009 to two counts of gross-misdemeanor communication with a minor for immoral purposes, according to court records.

Sentenced in November 2009 to up to six months in jail and 24 months of misdemeanor community custody, he remained in confinement until Feb. 27, 2010, according to court records.

The family’s complaint for personal injuries and damages, filed in Clallam County Superior Court, was settled Oct. 21, according to a copy of the settlement obtained by the Peninsula Daily News.

The settlement check was received Nov. 13, the family’s lawyer, Steve Bulzomi of Tacoma, said last week.

Hanson now lives in Idaho, Bulzomi said.

The PDN was unable to find Hanson for comment.

Negligence complaint

The family’s complaint said the city “negligently hired, trained and retained Erik Hanson as a police officer,” and that he used his position “to gain access to [the girl], to gain her trust and to engage in improper sexual contact” with her.

The city “vigorously denies that it did anything wrong or caused damages claimed,” according to the settlement.

Because of the assault, the victim “suffered both physical and mental pain, discomfort, and anguish, which will continue to exist for an indefinite period of time in the future,” according to the family’s complaint.

The city was represented by Robert Christie and Thomas Miller of the Christie Law Group PLLC of Seattle.

“Hanson’s grooming and assault of [the girl] was tragic, there is no doubt,” according to a motion-for-summary judgment Christie and Miller filed May 16.

“His criminal actions furthered his . . . own prurient interest and the city cannot be held liable for them,” the city’s motion said.

City: No evidence

The city said in the motion that there was no evidence of negligence in Hanson’s supervision.

The motion offers a detailed account of the city’s view of Hanson’s relationship with the girl, who was sexually assaulted at age 11, a year before she met Hanson.

In that case, Casey D. Shoop, 26, of Forks originally was charged with first-degree rape of a child, first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault of the girl, according to court records.

Shoop later pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child molestation and one count of third-degree child molestation. He was sentenced to one year in jail.

The city said in its motion that Hanson met the girl in June 2008 at the drag races in Forks and that they discussed the prior sexual assault and began emailing each other, he on his Forks Police Department account, and calling each other.

During a series of interviews and statements between Oct. 24, 2008, and April 23, 2009, the girl told authorities that Hanson assaulted her Aug. 12, 2008, the city said.

Hanson was on military leave and not under the city’s “active supervision,” according to the motion.

In October 2008, Hanson was one of five county law enforcement officers honored by the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Task Force of Clallam County for work in assisting victims of domestic violence.

City application

Before Hanson was hired, he underwent a polygraph examination and a psychological evaluation.

“There was nothing in his pre-employment applications materials that would disqualify him from employment as a police officer,” said the city’s motion, which did not include the results of the exam or the evaluation.

According to the Forks polygraph examiner, during a polygraph examination for a Renton Police Department position, Hanson “had failed all questions and within a short period of time allegedly withdrew his application,” the city motion said.

Former Forks Sgt. Joelle Munger was unable to obtain information about the Renton polygraph from Renton officials, according to the pleading.

Hanson was hired by the city Jan. 19, 2007.

At about the time that the girl reported to a Forks police officer Oct. 9, 2008, that Hanson had been sending her emails, city officials noticed Hanson’s city-issued cellphone bill was unusually high and began investigating, according to the city’s motion.

The city’s insurance risk pool advised that the complaint “was something that they wanted to settle, and they did,” Mayor Bryon Monohon said.

The city’s insurance rates are not expected to go up as a result of the settlement, Monohon added.

“I only wish the best for the family and the parties involved,” he said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 19. 2013 5:57PM
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