Lake Oswego family sues firebomber's parents
The parents of a former Lake Oswego High School student who tossed a Molotov cocktail into a home on Upper Drive while four people slept inside are being sued by the family he targeted.
Trudy and Christopher Corrigan and their two children, Keely and Rory, claim that Thomas and Alison Toal knew well before their son Travis was arrested in December 2016 that he had committed the crime and yet failed to notify the police. The Toals also knew that their son's mental illness made him unpredictable and a danger to others, the lawsuit claims, but did nothing to make sure he was properly monitored.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Clackamas County Circuit Court, seeks at least $500,000 in economic damages and $5 million for emotional distress.
Toal, who is now 21, was charged with three counts of first-degree arson and one count each of manufacturing a destructive device, possession of a destructive device and unlawful use of a weapon in the June 2014 attack. But he agreed to plead guilty to a charge of second-degree arson in exchange for dropping the other charges, and was sentenced to spend one year in jail.
He ended up serving about 9.5 months in jail and was released in July, court records show.
According to Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Bill Golden, Toal constructed the firebomb by mixing gasoline and Styrofoam inside a glass Starbucks bottle, creating a flammable gelatinous substance akin to napalm. He then lit the mixture on fire and threw it into the kitchen of the Corrigan home.
The family woke up and put out the fire, and no injuries were reported. But Christopher and Trudy Corrigan told the court that the fire came close to spreading beyond the kitchen and caused significant damage. The family was forced to move out of the house for six weeks and conduct expensive repairs, Trudy Corrigan said, but the biggest impact was psychological.
"Though terrorized, we were able to fight back and save our house and ourselves," Christopher Corrigan said in a Victim Impact Statement. "Since that night, we have lived with that attack and its aftermath — a thousand sleepless nights."
The lawsuit filed Thursday by Portland attorney Leta Gorman echoes that claim, saying the Corrigans installed security cameras to monitor anyone coming or going and lived with Trudy Corrigan's family in Aurora. After checking the camera footage night after night, the lawsuit says, the family finally moved back home on Aug. 1, 2014.
The identity and motive of the perpetrator were initially unknown, and it was more than two years before the Corrigan family learned who attacked them. But the Toals knew all along, the Corrigans claim in their lawsuit, and yet did nothing to alert them or notify authorities.
Toal was 17 at the time of the attack and had graduated two weeks earlier from Lake Oswego High School, but he was not arrested in connection with the incident until Dec. 19, 2016. According to Golden, the arrest was prompted by a combination of DNA evidence and a tip from a witness with whom Toal had spoken.
In her own statement, Trudy Corrigan said that Toal's attack was intended to target their daughter Keely, whom Toal had verbally and physically bullied in school prior to the incident. She said Keely, who was 18 at the time, had stood up to Toal, and that Toal retaliated with the firebombing.
At the sentencing hearing last year, Christopher Corrigan called the incident "a premeditated attack on a sleeping family" and referred to Travis Toal as an "overpriveleged and unaccountable young man."
At the time of his arrest, Toal was a junior at the University of Southern California. Both Golden and Toal's defense attorney, Steven Myers, stated that he suffered from mental health problems that contributed to the incident, and Myers said that Toal had been evaluated and had been receiving treatment.
In their lawsuit, the Corrigans claim that the Toals knew or should have known that their son's mental health issues made him a threat and yet did nothing to make sure he was properly supervised, was receiving proper medical treatment and was taking his medication.
In fact, while Toal was being held in Clackamas County Jail after his arrest, his mother wrote an affidavit in support of his release or reduction of bail. In it, she listed his achievements and activities, such as obtaining a 3.85 GPA at LOHS and earning similar grades at the University of Southern California. In high school, she said, he was captain of the ski team and played the trumpet in the band; he also was a member of the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra, was a reporter for the school newspaper Lake Views and co-anchored the high school newscast.
His mother also said he "has been active in" the USC Trojan Marching Band, but Brett Padelford, public relations director for the USC Trojan Marching Band, told The Review at the time that Toal was not currently a member of the group. Toal "quit the program," Padelford said, "before the football season started."
In their lawsuit, the Corrigans say the Toals provided USC with false information about Travis' mental illness and refused to remove him from the school — one more piece, they say, of a concerted effort to "hide the fact" that their son had committed the firebombing in June 2014.
In addition to the monetary claims, the Corrigans are also asking the court to require five years of mandatory mental health treatment for Travis Toal.