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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Lawsuits, Claims Cost State Of Washington $59 Million In FY 2015


Payouts on lawsuits and other legal claims cost Washington taxpayers nearly $60 million in fiscal year 2015. That’s according to a state report issued Thursday.

The Department of Social and Health Services accounted for nearly half the payouts. One of the biggest awards was nearly $10 million to five children severely abused at the hands of their parents. DSHS failed to protect the children despite multiple referrals.

The Washington Department of Transportation and the State Patrol split another $10 million payout. This one to a family of six crushed in their Suburban when a snow and ice laden tree fell across Highway 2 near Leavenworth. Two of the family members were killed. The Patrol and DOT had discussed closing the highway prior to the tree falling.

The number of tort claims against the state of Washington has declined in the past eight years while the amount paid out has fluctuated. Defending these cases also comes at a price: nearly $150 million in legal fees over the past eight years.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."