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Creach family settles wrongful death suit settlement for $2M

SPOKANE, Wash - Creach settlement

The family of Scott Creach accepted a $2M settlement offer for their wrongful death lawsuit Friday.

Spokane County offered the Creach family $2M to settle the lawsuit brought by the family; the county's insurance company encouraged the settlement to save on the costs of litigation in the case.

Friday morning Federal Judge Rosanna Peterson also ruled Friday Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Spokane County should be released from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of slain preacher and businessman Scott Creach.

The Creach family filed the suit in federal court against Deputy Brian Hirzel, Spokane County and Knezovich, saying their actions deprived Scott Creach of his civil rights and deprived the family of their relationship with him.

The case was filed in November 2011 and was scheduled for trial in late July. In March, Spokane County and Knezovich filed a motion for summary judgment, which would remove them as defendants in the case. Arguments were heard in early May and Judge Peterson handed down her ruling Friday morning.

"Plaintiffs did not address defendants' arguments regarding a federal claim for loss of their relationship at summary judgment and thus appear to agree that their complaint does not assert a federal cause of action for the Creach children's loss of relationship with their father," Peterson stated in her ruling.

Peterson rejected the Creach family's claims the sheriff's office was negligent for providing "ambush training," saying in her ruling that no reasonable jury would find the defendants knowingly made a deliberate decision to violate Scott Creach's rights. The ruling went on to say the Creach lawsuit also failed to raise evidence that the County and Knezovich conducted faulty investigations or failed to discipline deputies.

"Plaintiffs have not raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether Spokane County had a custom or practice of failing to properly investigate the actions of its deputies or failing to discipline errant deputies," Peterson said.

Creach, 74, was shot to death in the parking lot of the Plant Farm when he went out to investigate an idling car in the business' parking lot. That idling car was a patrol cruiser driven by Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Brian Hirzel, who had parked in the lot late in the evening of August 25, 2010. Hirzel shot and killed Creach.

"We are pleased with this settlement," said Sim Osborn of the law firm Osborn Machler, which represents the Creach family. "No amount of money will bring Mr. Creach back, but this settlement will help raise awareness and hopefully encourage positive change in the way Spokane County trains its deputies so that something like this does not happen again."

Neither Osborn's comments nor the settlement itself are sitting well for Sheriff Knezovich however.

"I regret that Mr. Osborn chose to inaccurately portray the settlement knowing that the Judge ruled to dismiss the action against the Sheriff's Office and the County," he said.

"I think it was irresponsible for the insurance company to offer such a large settlement, against the advice of Spokane County and our attorneys, prior to Judge Peterson's ruling.  Doing so only opens Spokane County and the Sheriff's Office up to more unfounded lawsuits.  It is important to note that Judge Peterson dismissed Spokane County and myself from this lawsuit and found that the Plaintiffs' claims against me and my Office were unfounded," Knezovich added.