Snohomish County settles lawsuit over 2016 park rape for $1.95 million

The county, accused of not hiring enough security staff for a sponsored event, admitted no fault.

EVERETT — Snohomish County will pay nearly $2 million to the family of a teenage girl who was raped at a county-sponsored movie night at a park near Cathcart in 2016.

On Monday, the Snohomish County Council approved the $1.95 million payout to the girl and her mother, who sued the county for negligence in King County Superior Court in April 2019.

The lawsuit alleges that county park rangers were working the event at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Aug. 4, 2016. One county parks employee even noticed that the girl was visibly under the influence of Xanax and alcohol, provided by a man before he sexually assaulted her, the lawsuit says.

Yet security staff “did nothing to stop her from being dragged away from the crowds and raped” in bushes nearby as she “went in and out of consciousness,” it states.

“This was such a tragic event for this young girl and it should never have happened because it was preventable,” said the family’s attorney, Julie Kays.

The county was accused of failing to enforce the event’s rules, including a prohibition on alcohol and a requirement that minors be accompanied by an adult. There also weren’t enough security staff to ensure attendees’ safety, the lawsuit says.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, the county admitted no fault.

“It’s a tragic situation, and the settlement speaks for itself,” said county spokesman Kent Patton, who declined to comment further.

An estimated 1,500 to 1,800 attended the movie night, but the county only had three to four people there to provide security, Kays said.

“When you’re dealing with that volume of people and you don’t have a way to control criminals who want to take advantage of it, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Kays said.

The park movie night became “widely known as a haven for underage drinking and drug use,” the lawsuit alleged.

A friend of the victim who saw her after the rape called her mother, who immediately came to pick her up. She then underwent a sexual assault examination.

In 2018, a Snohomish County jury convicted the perpetrator of second-degree rape by reason of physical incapacitation, and third-degree rape of a child, according to the lawsuit.

The girl suffered “immense emotional and psychological injury” as a result of the county’s negligence, the lawsuit says.

“She’s just so brave and courageous for doing what she did and coming forward,” Kays said. “Hopefully it will make it so no one else has to go through what she went through.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

For help

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse offers services and support at 425-297-5774. There also is a 24-hour crisis line: 425-252-4800. More info: washington.providence.org/hospitals/regional-medical-center/services/assault-abuse.

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