Federal Way pays $2.2 million settlement over girl's playground injury

Federal Way settled an $80 million lawsuit by agreeing to pay $2.2 million to the family of a young girl who suffered brain damage during a playground incident three years ago.

The city council voted unanimously to direct Federal Way's third party liability insurance company to pay the settlement. City attorney Pat Richardson said the city is not admitting wrongdoing in the incident and chose to settle to avoid unpredictable litigation costs.

The lawsuit also named the King County Housing Authority, which owns Laurelwood Gardens Apartments; King County Housing Authority-Laurelwood Gardens Limited Partnership, which maintained the complex; Allied Group Inc., which managed the property; Don Kupka, a maintenance worker for Allied Group; and South King Fire and Rescue.

The lawsuit, filed by the girls parents, David and Dawn Blanchard, stemmed from an incident that took place June 2006 at the apartment complex. Tanayia Blanchard, age 11 at the time, was found hanging by her neck from a rope attached to a piece of playground equipment at the apartments, 29436 21st Ave. S.

Tanayia's neck became caught in the rope and she was unable to free herself. The loop of rope was not part of the original design of the play toy, similar to a zip line.

Former Federal Way police officer Kendrick Wong, along with South King Fire and Rescue and Medic 8, responded to the call. Wong arrived first, finding the girl unconscious and without a heartbeat, according to court documents. Concluding the girl was dead, Wong began processing the crime scene. He directed medical responders not to interfere with the scene by freeing Blanchard or attempting to revitalize her. Tanayia hung for six to eight minutes before paramedics began revitalization attempts.

As a result of the lack of oxygen to her brain, Tanayia suffered a permanent anoxic brain injury. She now has minimal brain stem function and lives at a nursing facility, where she requires 24-hour care and medical devices to assist her breathing and eating, according to court documents.

To date, the health care costs associated with the girl's care amount to $1.75 million, according to court documents. Tanayia requires return visits to Children's Hospital for conditions also associated with the incident, according to court documents.

The lawsuit claims Federal Way police are responsible for Blanchard's current state. The plaintiffs alleged that Wong should have removed Tanayia from the rope. The settlement with the city will not be final until approved later this month by a Superior Court judge. If approved, $829,000 will go into a special needs trust for Tanayia.

The Federal Way settlement is the second to come in this case. In January, the plaintiffs settled with all parties, excluding South King Fire and Rescue and the City of Federal Way, for $7 million. The lawsuit claims the parties did not supervise or maintain the playground equipment. It further claims the property management knew the rope was unsafely tied to the equipment and failed to remove it. Approximately $1.63 million was placed in the special needs trust following that settlement.

In March, the King County Superior Court dismissed South King Fire and Rescue as a party in the case.

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