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In the first case to test 1998 changes to Washington state’s Child Death Statute, a Seattle jury has awarded $2.8 million to the parents and estate of a 22-year-old killed in a car accident. The young man’s parents were allowed to recover wrongful-death damages, even though they were not financially dependent on their adult son. At around 5 p.m. on June 22, 2000, courier Yianni Philippides was crossing the street on his bicycle when he was struck by an Isuzu Trooper driven by Wolverine World Wide Inc. salesman Robert Bernard, who failed to stop at the crosswalk. Philippides sustained brain injuries, and was taken off life support a week later. Bernard paid a $250 fine for negligent driving. In his brief for the parents, Kathryn and George Philippides, William S. Bailey of Seattle’s Fury Bailey argued that the law has shifted from “Dickensian notions” of children as productive servants toward acknowledgement of intangible parent-child bonds. But his key argument, Bailey said, was that parents no longer had to be financially dependent on a deceased child to recover damages because the law had been amended to include recovery for loss of psychological and emotional support. In an opinion allowing the claim, retired King County Superior Court Judge J. Kathleen Learned cited the legislative intent section of the amendment, which said the cause of action was dependent upon “significant involvement in the child’s life, including … emotional, psychological or financial support.” The defendants argued that this language only applied to the part of the statute involving minor children, which had been struck down on equal protection grounds in 1997 because it treated unwed fathers and mothers differently. But Learned said the change applied to the entire statute, adding, “It would not be the first time that the legislature enacted a provision that had broader ramifications than contemplated.” The jury awarded $900,000 to each parent for loss of consortium, and $891,809 in lost earnings and $118,675 of medical expenses to Yianni’s estate. Philippides v. Bernard, No. 01-2-09974-4. Mark Thorsrud of Seattle’s Thorsrud, Cane & Paulich, counsel for Bernard and Wolverine, did not return calls seeking comment. Motorist Robert Johns, who had waved to Philippides to cross the street right before the accident, was added as a defendant after Bernard and Wolverine blamed him, said Andrew S. Dimmock, an in-house attorney for Johns’ insurer, Progressive Insurance Co. The jury did not attribute any fault to Johns.

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