Attorneys for Officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew unsuccessfully argued there was no basis for negligence allegations, either in the officers’ planning before contacting Lyles or in their interaction with her.
A King County judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a key negligence claim in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the city of Seattle and two Seattle police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles last year.
Without comment, Superior Court Judge Julie Spector rejected a motion brought by attorneys for Officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew that was joined by the city.
Lyles, a 30-year-old mother of four children, was shot in her Northeast Seattle apartment on June 18 after she reported a burglary and, according to the officers, suddenly attacked them with one or two knives.
Her death sparked protests, including allegations the shooting was racially motivated because Lyles was African American and both officers are white.
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“The Estate of Charleena Lyles and her children are pleased with this result,” Karen Koehler, an attorney for the estate, said in a statement on the judge’s ruling. “The Court rejected the City and its officers’ position that they were immune from a lawsuit and could not be held responsible for negligent conduct just like everyone else.”
Koehler added: “The civil-litigation process will reveal the truth of why Charleena Lyles should still be alive today.”
Ghazal Sharifi, an attorney for the city, said in an email: “We reviewed the Court’s opinion and are evaluating our next steps.”
In her order, Spector granted the officers’ motion to dismiss a claim for an alleged violation of the state constitution, saying there was no separate cause of action. She also granted their motion, uncontested by Lyles’ estate, to dismiss a discrimination claim.
The city also joined in those motions.
In seeking dismissal of the negligence claim, the officers’ attorneys, Robert Christie and Megan Coluccio, argued in court papers there was no basis for the estate’s allegations, either in the officers’ planning before contacting Lyles or in their interaction with her in the apartment.
They also contended the suit more properly should be brought as a civil-rights action in federal court, alleging excessive force.
“But trying to repackage this case under a theory of negligence under Washington law is fundamentally flawed,” they wrote.
It would “break new ground” where no Washington court has gone before, they argued.
Spector heard oral arguments from the parties on Friday.