The state Supreme Court has upheld a $1.1 million civil judgment awarded to the family of a woman who was killed by her boyfriend in 2008 after a Federal Way police officer handed him an anti-harassment order but failed to ensure he left the couple’s home.
In 2010, King County jurors determined that the Federal Way police officer was negligent when he served the court order but did not check on the victim’s well-being or stay to ensure compliance with the order requiring him to move out. The victim, Baerbel “Babs” Roznowski, was stabbed to death in the home a short time later.
The city had appealed the jury verdict, saying that the trial court erred in allowing the case to go forward and that anti-harassment orders were different from domestic- violence protection orders.
The suit was filed by the daughters of Roznowski, 66.
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Federal Way Police Department Chief Brian Wilson said in a news release on Thursday that the department is constantly reviewing policy and practices to improve the protection and safety of people who petition for court orders.
He also expressed sympathy to Roznowski’s family and said the high court’s ruling provides “clear guidance moving forward; not only for our police department, but for all police departments across the state.”
According to her daughters, Roznowski had been in a difficult relationship with Chan “Paul” Kim for many years when she decided to end the relationship, sell her Federal Way home and move the California to live near her adult daughters.
Her attempts to get Kim to move out of her house were unsuccessful and volatile and she sought counsel from a domestic-violence advocate. She filed for a temporary anti-harassment order, court documents say.
Roznowski asked that police deliver the court order and wrote that Kim had a history of assault and would likely react violently to the order, the lawsuit said.
The order was served to Kim by Officer Andrew Hensing on May 3, 2008, while Kim and Roznowski were at the home, according to the suit.
Hensing confirmed Kim’s identity, told him he needed to appear in court and left before Kim left the house, according to the family’s attorney, Jack Connelly.
The suit claims Hensing saw Roznowski but did not “interact with her or inquire as to her safety” and that she was left alone to explain to Kim what the court order meant.
Kim left the home for a short while and then returned and stabbed Roznowski to death and attempted to kill himself.
Police were called to the home by a friend of Kim’s who was worried he would attempt suicide, court documents say.
Kim was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced in 2010 to more than 20 years in prison.
In a unanimous opinion filed Thursday, the state Supreme Court justices found that Hensing “as part of his duty to act reasonably, owed Roznowski a duty to guard against the criminal conduct of Kim.”
Hensing “knew or should have known that Roznowski and Kim were both present and that his service of the anti-harassment order might trigger Kim to act violently,” said the opinion authored by Justice Mary Fairhurst.
“It’s a very important decision,” Tacoma attorney Jack Connolly said about the Supreme Court opinion. “It upholds the original jury finding and states that an anti-harassment order needs to be properly served.”
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.