The driver defied a court order by failing to install an interlock device in his pickup before he struck and killed a retired couple — and severely injured their grandson and his mother — in Wedgwood in 2013.
The son of a couple who were hit and killed by a drunken driver in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood in 2013 has settled a lawsuit he brought against the city over its rules on supervising people known for driving intoxicated for $13 million.
Dan Schulte, whose infant son and wife were also severely injured in the crash, and the city of Seattle have agreed to end the wrongful-death and personal-injury suit to avoid trial. The city of Seattle is paying $6.5 million of the total, including defense costs, while excess insurance carriers are paying the remainder, the city attorney’s office said in a statement Monday.
The driver, Mark Mullan — who had been under the supervision of Seattle Municipal Court because of a previous drunken-driving arrest at the time of the fatal crash — remains in prison.
An unemployed electrician and father who struggled with substance abuse, he defied a court order by failing to install an interlock device in his pickup before he mowed the family over as they walked across Northeast 75th Street on a March afternoon. Afterward, he failed field sobriety tests and had a preliminary breath-alcohol level of 0.22 percent, nearly three times the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.
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The family contends that Mullan’s probation officer was negligent, and that if he had been subject to closer alcohol-monitoring supervision, he would not have been able to get behind the wheel. Or, he would have been in jail for previous violations of probation, said an attorney for the family, Steve Bulzomi, of a Tacoma-based law firm.
“This case presents a profound human tragedy that no family should have to endure,” says a statement from Dan Nolte, a spokesman for the city’s attorney office. “Although the city is confident that its probation counselors acted appropriately in supervising Mark Mullan, this case presented significant risk to the city.”
The Seattle Municipal Court’s probation division monitors thousands of convicted defendants at a time, the statement says, and aims to address underlying issues that cause people to end up in the court system. Counselors “work diligently to both supervise and rehabilitate probationers” and officers are highly trained to positively change defendants’ behavior and help the community, the statement continues.
According to court documents, Mullan had been arrested at least five times in Washington for driving under the influence before killing anyone. Three were in the early 1990s — two in Puyallup in 1990 and 1991, and one in 1994 in King County. In the six months before the Wedgwood crash, he had been arrested twice on suspicion of DUI.
At the time of the fatal collision, Mullan was on probation for a Dec. 25, 2012, DUI charge. In that case, he twice slammed his pickup into a motel on Aurora Avenue North and was so drunk he couldn’t stand without the help of Seattle police officers. As part of his probation conditions, he was ordered not to drink alcohol and to install the interlock device inside his black Chevy Silverado pickup.
The Schultes filed their lawsuit against the city and Mullan in October 2013, court records show.
A judge a month later sentenced Mullan to a nearly 18-year prison sentence for the fatal crash, after he plead guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault and violating the state’s ignition-interlock law.
The city of Seattle tried to remove itself as a party from the lawsuit, but the state Court of Appeals in 2016 ruled for the court battle to proceed.
The 10-day-old boy and his mother, Karina Ulriksen-Schulte, suffered permanent and disabling injuries. Dennis Schulte, 66, and Judy Schulte, 68, who had just moved to the neighborhood from Indiana to be close to the young family, died on impact.
“The four people in my life who matter the most to me have been lost to death or deprived of a full life because of their catastrophic injuries,” said Dan Schulte in the release. “We must protect our families and demand better from the city.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong age for the baby injured in the 2013 crash that killed his grandparents.