Lawsuit alleges devastating car crash could have been prevented, Jan. 22, 2014

Cayla Wilson before the crash

Cayla Wilson before the crash.

Lawyers for Cayla Wilson, a pregnant Gresham woman who was severely brain damaged when a drugged-out driver slammed into her car on Apr. 15, 2010, are suing the City of Portland and Clackamas County for $42 million in damages on behalf of their client.

Wilson, who was 19 years old at the time of the crash, was 5 months pregnant when 54-year-old Jack Whiteaker smashed into her. In January 2012, Whiteaker was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison for driving high on methamphetamine, assault and reckless driving.

Doctors gave Wilson a 1-percent chance of survival and were reportedly keeping her alive in hopes of saving her baby. Six weeks later, doctors performed an emergency cesarean section and Wilson’s baby Jaikyla was born, but not without complications.

Wilson is now in a permanent vegetative state.

On Wednesday, attorneys Greg Kafoury and Mark McDougal were arguing the tragedy that befell Wilson should never have happened, and the city and county are partly to blame.

Kafoury and McDougal filed the first claim against the Clackamas County Probation Department.

Whiteaker was on probation for heroin possession and had a long history of violence before the crash. The department allowed Whiteaker to evade probation requirements for 9 months, never verified his address or employment, and never got drug treatment before the crash, Kafoury said.

Cayla Wilson today

Cayla Wilson today.

The attorneys filed a second claim against the City of Portland.

Portland police responded to two 911 calls regarding Whiteaker hours before the crash and never detained or arrested him, Kafoury said. Whiteaker was reportedly scaring customers at Blockbuster video on Southeast Powell Boulevard that morning before he ran through neighbors’ backyards hours later.

On a second call, an officer found Whiteaker hiding in bushes, obviously high or mentally unstable. When he refused to come out, the officer left him there, Kafoury said.

Two hours later, Whiteaker got into his jeep and plowed into Wilson’s car on Southeast Jenne Road.

Kafoury said Wilson’s medical bills are nearly $10 million.