Special Reports

County to respond to Brame claim

Pierce County is reviewing a wrongful death claim filed against it by Crystal Brame's family and is expected to give its official response within the next two weeks.

Pierce County risk manager Mike Panagiotu said Monday that he doesn't expect the county will grant the claim, which will likely prompt the lawyer for Crystal Brame's family to sue the county.

"It's just not something I can see Pierce County voluntarily agreeing to jump in and say 'Here, we want to pay you some money.' It will have to be through the legal arena," Panagiotu said.

The claim against the county, like those brought against the City of Tacoma and its officials, Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma and the City of Gig Harbor, gives a range of $12.8 million to $75 million in damages.

The claims stem from the death of Crystal Brame, who was fatally shot April 26 by her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, who then took his own life.

Crystal Brame's family filed the claim against Pierce County in late November. Panagiotu's risk management office received the claim Dec. 2.

The claim does not contain any specifics about what the county might have done wrong. Panagiotu said Monday that he still does not have any specifics, even after asking the family's lawyer to provide more information.

Paul Luvera, the lawyer for Crystal Brame's family, issued a statement Monday in response to a request for comment by The News Tribune.

He noted that Crystal's family originally sued only the City of Tacoma and that the claim against Pierce County is a result of the city's contention that other parties also are to blame in Crystal Brame's death.

The city's "answer was to shift blame to a host of others including Gig Harbor and Pierce County," he said. "This legal maneuvering created a legal situation where the family was then required to file claims against both as a direct result of Tacoma's actions."

Tacoma was sued on Oct. 8 by Crystal Brame's parents, Lane and Patty Judson; her sister, Julie Ahrens; and her two young children. They allege the city has culpability in Crystal Brame's death for giving David Brame a position of responsibility, failing to supervise him and not acting on allegations of domestic violence.

In answering the Judson family lawsuit, Tacoma's lawyers said if the city is to blame in Crystal Brame's death, then so are a number of other parties, including Pierce County, the City of Gig Harbor, Crystal's lawyer, her counselor and her family.

By law, anyone who wants to sue a government entity must first file a claim and wait 60 days for a response.

Panagiotu said he plans to respond to the claim against the county before the Feb. 2 deadline. If the family sues, Panagiotu said, the county will ask a judge to drop the claim against the county.

Aaron Corvin: 253-552-7058