The Department of Corrections (DOC) has a duty to supervise offenders who are released on supervised probation. The DOC is generally not liable for Washington personal injuries caused by a probationer, unless it acts with gross negligence in supervising him or her. To show gross negligence, a plaintiff must show that the DOC substantially breached its duties and acted without even slight care.
The Washington Supreme Court recently considered whether the DOC was liable for the murder of a woman by a man on probation.
According to the Court’s opinion, the probationer received a suspended sentence in 2010 for misdemeanor violation of a court order that prohibited him from contacting the victim, on the condition he serve 180 days in jail and 24 months’ probation. He physically assaulted and threatened to kill the victim in 2011, resulting in a guilty plea to misdemeanor assault and felony harassment. This sentence also included 24 months of probation. The court ordered a number of conditions, including prohibiting contact with the victim.