Family of comatose mom sues Portland, Clackamas Co.

Cayla Wilson, in side-by-side photos, is in a permanent vegetative state following a 2010 auto crash. Undated photos, (KOIN 6 News)
Cayla Wilson, in side-by-side photos, is in a permanent vegetative state following a 2010 auto crash. Undated photos, (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The trial got underway Wednesday in a $42 million lawsuit brought by the family of a pregnant Gresham woman who was put into a vegetative state after being struck by a man who was high on methamphetamine.

The lawsuit, brought by the parents of Cayla Wilson, names the city of Portland and the Clackamas County Community Corrections Department as defendants.

Cayla Wilson in an undated photo before a crash that left her in a permanent vegetative state. (KOIN 6 News)
Cayla Wilson in an undated photo before a crash that left her in a permanent vegetative state. (KOIN 6 News)

On the afternoon of April 15, 2010, 56-year-old Jack Dean Whiteaker was behind the wheel of his Jeep in Southeast Portland when he collided into a car driven by a then 19-year-old Cayla Wilson.

Wilson was five months pregnant at the time. Her daughter, JaiKyla, was delivered via emergency C-section about six weeks later. Wilson suffered severe injuries and remains in a vegetative state. The lawsuit seeks $42 million in non-economic damages and medical expenses for both Wilson and her daughter.

In January 2012, Whiteaker, who had a long history of drug charges, was convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants, second-degree assault and reckless driving. He was given a maximum 11-year prison sentence.

Jack Dean Whiteaker in an undated photo (KOIN 6 News file)
Jack Dean Whiteaker in an undated photo (KOIN 6 News file)

In April 2012, Wilson’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Clackamas County Community Corrections after discovering that Whiteaker — who was on probation for heroin possession at the time of the crash — had allegedly missed all his probation requirements for a period of nine months prior. According to the lawsuit, he did not check in with his probation officer Dawn Penberthy, undergo drug tests or take part in drug counseling.

In July 2012, Wilson’s parents added the city of Portland to the suit after learning that police officers had dealt with Whiteaker on the morning of the crash but had reportedly taken no action.

That morning, according to the lawsuit, officers reportedly responded to two separate 911 calls regarding Whiteaker. The first came from a Blockbuster store, where he was allegedly disturbing customers. In the second, about two hours later, officers again responded after Whiteaker was reported running through backyards and hiding in bushes. In neither case was he taken into custody, the suit says.

Cayla Wilson is in a permanent vegetative state following a 2010 auto crash. Undated photo. (KOIN 6 News)
Cayla Wilson is in a permanent vegetative state following a 2010 auto crash. Undated photo. (KOIN 6 News)

In his opening statements, Wilson’s attorney Greg Kafoury said, “Whiteaker was free to do whatever he liked and what he liked to do was shoot meth and drive around.”

Portland police told KOIN 6 News Whiteaker wasn’t arrested because there was no probably cause. In a statement, PPB said, “This incident was an incredible tragedy for the Wilson family but Officer Devonna Dick had no legal reason to detain Mr. Whiteaker during her contacts with him. ”

Calls for comment to Clackamas County were not returned in time for this report.

The trial resumes Thursday.

Jessica Morkert contributed information to this report.

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