Jury awards $9.5M in case involving North Kitsap fire engine

SEATTLE — A King County Superior Court jury on Thursday awarded $9.5 million to the family of a Kingston man who died in a collision with a fire truck.

On the morning of July 4, 2014, Jason Foster was was riding a motor scooter on Miller Bay Road, approaching its intersection with West Kingston Road. The traffic signal turned yellow, and he continued. Entering the crossroads from the other direction was former firefighter intern Scott Sommers, driving North Kitsap Fire & Rescue Engine 85. Foster, 48, struck the truck, which wasn’t on an emergency call, and died instantly.

Attorneys for the fire district and Sommers argued that Foster was driving unsafely, speeding and swerving, and lost control of his scooter before the collision. They said the truck was stationary, waiting to turn. Lawyers for Foster’s family claimed he was operating the scooter prudently, had the right of way and had no reason to expect that the fire engine would pull into his lane.

The jury unanimously found that Foster had not been negligent and that the fire district was 100 percent responsible for causing the collision. It awarded $3 million each to Foster’s widow and one minor son, $1.5 million to each of his two adult sons, and $100,000 to each of his five adult stepchildren.

“There were six witnesses and each had a different story,” said Foster family attorney Nate Roberts of Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma.

“We wanted the jury to focus on the seventh eyewitness — the forensic evidence,” Roberts said. That included the skid mark, debris pattern and position of where the vehicles came to rest. He and partner Meaghan Driscoll presented an animation of the collision.

“If you look at the actual evidence at the scene, it was pretty clear what happened,” he said.

Sommers was never cited or criminally charged.

“The family is extremely pleased with the result in that it clears the person they love of any wrongdoing in the crash,” Roberts said. “We hope the case sends a strong message to this fire department and others that they need to be truthful and accountable for their mistakes.”

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue has $10 million of insurance coverage with which to pay the claim. An appeal must be filed within 30 days.

“We continue to offer our deepest sympathies to the Foster family for its loss,” said NFF&R chief Dan Smith. “Although we respect the decisions made by the court and the jury, we disagree with them in several major respects and will be reviewing the case with our counsel and insurer to assess whether to file an appeal.”

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