UTAH

Covid-19 delays continue in Susan Powell family lawsuit

Jun 12, 2020, 11:48 AM | Updated: 12:06 pm
Charles Cox reviews legal papers with his attorneys, Ted Buck (center), Evan Bariault (left) and An...
Charles Cox reviews legal papers with his attorneys, Ted Buck (center), Evan Bariault (left) and Anne Bremner in Pierce County Superior Court on Feb. 18, 2020. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL
(left)

TACOMA — A jury trial over the civil suit filed by the parents of missing Utah woman Susan Powell accusing Washington’s state child welfare agency of negligence will remain on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, Washington Supreme Court Deputy Commissioner Walter Burton granted a request from the Washington Attorney General’s Office seeking a stay of Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh’s plan to resume proceedings in the civil trial starting Monday, June 15.

The jury trial had commenced in February and was into its fifth week when, on March 17, Judge Rumbaugh placed the proceedings on hold due to the public health crisis. On May 19, the judge issued an order scheduling the trial to recommence on June 8, stating proper protections were then in place to continue the trial while also protecting the health of the jurors, witnesses, attorneys and court staff.

Attorneys representing the state pushed back and asked Judge Rumbaugh to delay. He did so, but only by one week. The state attorneys then filed a request for discretionary review to the Washington Supreme Court.

“With the department’s motion for discretionary review scheduled for consideration by this court on July 9, 2020, failing to stay proceedings could render the motion moot,” Burton wrote in his order granting the stay.

However, Burton also conceded the ongoing delay could cause problems.

“I acknowledge the superior court’s and respondents’ legitimate concern with the need to resume trial before the jurors’ memories of prior proceedings fade to the point that a mistrial may be required,” Burton wrote. “But in the balance between the interest in completing this trial and the need to protect human life and health, it is plain which side carries the greater weight.”

The lawsuit revolves around claims of negligence rising from the Feb. 5, 2012 deaths of Susan Powell’s sons, Charlie and Braden Powell, at the hands of their father. Josh Powell killed the boys and himself during a court-authorized visitation at a home he had rented in the town of Graham, Wash.

At the time of the murder-suicide, Josh Powell was the sole suspect in the suspected murder of his wife. However, he had never been arrested or charged with a crime related to Susan Powell’s disappearance.

The couple’s children were at that time in the protective custody of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, having been removed from Josh Powell after police served an Aug. 25, 2011 search warrant at the home of his father, Steve Powell. During service of the warrant, investigators had located pornographic voyeur videos created and kept by Steve Powell. As a result, a judge had raised questions about Josh Powell’s fitness as a father and placed the boys with Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, while sorting out whether or not Powell could safely regain custody.

In their lawsuit, the Coxes contend the actions of state social workers directly contributed to the deaths of their grandsons. They argue the social workers failed to conduct required domestic violence screening on Josh Powell and showed “reunification bias” in their efforts to allow him visitation at his rental home, instead of at a secure third-party facility.

The stay is just the latest in a long string of detours and delays for the case, which the Coxes first filed in 2013.

The suit was previously transferred from Pierce County Superior Court to the U.S. District Court, where a judge ruled against the Coxes. They appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in January of 2019 partially overturned the lower court’s decision. The appellate court justices agreed the individual social workers were immune from the lawsuit’s claims, but reinstated the claims against the state agency.

Attorneys for the Coxes then moved to have the case moved back into the state court, where it ultimately went to trial in February.

Utah

Hatch courthouse...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Utah’s longest serving senator, Orrin Hatch, dies at 88

Orrin Hatch, Utah's longest serving senator, has died at age 88.
26 days ago
Pictured here are items seized from one of four drug busts authorities in Carbon County conducted o...
Mark Jones

Carbon County authorities make significant drug busts

Authorities in Carbon County, with a search warrant, have conducted four drug busts over the past three weeks.
27 days ago
...
Mark Jones

Soap box derby set for Saturday in Daybreak

Daybreak will host the second annual Soap Box Derby on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.
27 days ago
State street traffic sign...
Samantha Herrera

State Street traffic restrictions starting soon

State Street traffic restrictions are slated to start soon and continue into August. Work will impact areas downtown and near the Capitol.
27 days ago
Garth Brooks Salt Lake...
Simone Seikaly

Garth Brooks sells out second Salt Lake concert in 45 minutes

It was the second time in less than a year that Garth Brooks sold that many tickets for a Salt Lake City concert so quickly.
27 days ago
A Smith's recycling bin...
Devin Oldroyd

Recycle single-use plastic at your local Smith’s

In honor of Earth Month, Smith's Food & Drug is encouraging its customers to recycle thin-filter plastic materials at their local stores.
27 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Covid-19 delays continue in Susan Powell family lawsuit