A jury on Wednesday found the City of Federal Way was negligent because its police officer failed to enforce an anti-harassment protection order, resulting in the murder of Baer-bel Roznowski in 2008.
After deliberating a day and a half, the 12-member jury awarded Roznowski’s estate $1.1 million in the civil lawsuit brought by her daughters, Carola Washburn and Janet Loh, against the city.
Washburn hugged her sister when the verdict was read in King County Superior Court.
“I’m elated because from day one we have said this police department was negligent,” Wash-burn said. “We really wanted accountability.”
Roznowski, 66, was stabbed to death May 3, 2008, by her live-in boyfriend, Chan Ok “Paul” Kim, three hours after Federal Way police officer Andy Hensing delivered an anti-harassment protective order.
Hensing handed the order to Kim and left with him still there, even though the officer saw Roznowksi in the house, according to court documents.
Jack Connelly, the attorney for the two sisters, said Hensing hadn’t read court documents when he delivered the order. Those documents indicated that the house was Roznowski’s and that Kim was “likely to react violently when served.”
The anti-harassment order prohibited Kim from being within 500 feet of Roznowski’s house.
Because Kim was in violation of the order by being at her house, “the policeman should have stayed there and made sure he got out of the house,” said Andrea Ivy, presiding juror. “The officer did not do his job, or he could have done it better,” she said.
Kim pleaded guilty in January to killing Roznowski, agreeing to a reduced charge of second-degree murder. Kim, now 71, was sentenced in March to the maximum prison term of 20 years and four months.
Hensing said in his police report that when he delivered the order at 8:08 a.m., he saw someone in the background but couldn’t determine if the person was male or female. Hensing said he told Kim to leave and comply with the order, and Kim told him he understood.
Kim later left Roznowski’s house in the 2000 block of Southwest 353rd Place but returned before police arrived at 11:39 a.m. and found Roznowski dead, according to court documents.
Bob Christie, attorney for the City of Federal Way, said there is a “high likelihood” the city will appeal the jury’s verdict.
He said the city disagreed with a ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas during the trial that the protection order was a legal mandate for the officer to take action.
“There is no mandate for any police officer to take action with this type of protective order,” Christie said Wednesday.
In closing arguments Monday after six days of testimony, Christie said an anti-harassment order is enforced after it’s served and its delivery is entered into police records. By contrast, in the case of a domestic violence order, police stay until the subject of the order leaves, Christie said.
After the verdict, Federal Way Police Chief Brian J. Wilson said his department’s review of the circumstances surrounding Roznowski’s murder will continue. Officer training is ongoing, he said. If there are ways to “enhance the safety of our citizens,” they will be carried out, he said.
Hensing did not return a voice message requesting comment.
Before the verdict, City Attorney Pat Richardson said that if the jury awarded damages, the city would be covered by its liability insurance.
Following the verdict, Connelly stressed that people depend on police to enforce protection orders.
“The Federal Way Police Department did not do its job and a woman died as a result,” Connelly said.
The civil trial started Dec. 6 at the Regional Justice Center in Kent with Darvas presiding.
Washburn, 49, and Loh, 46, who live in the Los Angeles area, filed their lawsuit in May 2009 in their names and on behalf of their mother’s estate without specifying a dollar amount for damages.
A verdict required a minimum of 10 votes. The jury, consisting of six women and six men, was unanimous in ruling the city was negligent, but voted 10-2 that the police department’s actions resulted in Roznowski’s death.
On damages, jurors voted 10-2 to award $1.1 million to Roznowski’s estate. They were unanimous in not awarding any monetary damages to the two daughters.
Connelly had suggested to the jury a total damage award ranging from $6 million to $8 million for Roznowski’s estate and her daughters.
Money was never the issue of the lawsuit, said Loh, executor of her mom’s estate.
Instead, the focus was being “the voice for our mother” and to help those who obtain protection orders.
“We wanted to make sure what happened to our mom doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Loh said.