Pierce County has agreed to pay $1.65 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family of a Fircrest man who died after being hit by a patrol car driven by an on-duty sheriffs deputy.
The money is cold comfort to the family, said attorney Michael McKasy, who represented Dale Neels wife, Linda Neel, and two grown children, Matthew Neel and Ruth Moye.
Nothing replaces him, McKasy said. Its a horrible loss for them.
Neel, 61, was riding his moped home from work in September 2011 when he was hit by a patrol car driven by Deputy Jason Smith. Neel worked as a teller at a Columbia Bank branch and was well-liked by his customers and neighbors, McKasy said.
Smith was responding to a call about 6:40 p.m. and had the cars lights and sirens activated. He was headed to a potential felony attempting to elude a police vehicle call at the time, sheriffs spokesman Ed Troyer said.
Neel was in the center turn lane on Emerson Street, preparing to make a left turn on Woodside Drive, when he either heard or saw Smiths car coming and moved to the right curb, court records show. Smith was traveling in the opposite direction and moved into the lane Neel turned into and hit the moped.
The deputys car then jumped the curb, went through two fences and hit a tree. Smith suffered injuries but has returned to the job, Troyer said.
Neel was critically injured and later died at an area hospital.
The lawsuit contended Smith was going above the 35 mph speed limit and was negligent and reckless in driving his patrol car. McKasy said he learned from records obtained for the lawsuit that Smith had been involved in five previous wrecks.
Troyer said Tacoma police investigated the collision. The results of the investigation were forwarded to the sheriffs accident review board which found the collision with Neel to be nonpreventable, Troyer said.
Smith was trying to avoid Neel, he added.
They both went to the same spot at the same time, he said. This was a tragic accident which resulted in the loss of life, and for that the department has offered its condolences to the family of Mr. Neel with the hope that this settlement will bring some peace and closure to the matter.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644