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Attorney Ted Buck delivers opening statements to a jury while standing in front of a large photo print of Braden and Charlie Powell on Feb. 18, 2020.
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Jury Finds State Of Washington Negligent In Deaths Of Susan Powell’s Children

TACOMA, Wash. – A jury has found the state of Washington was negligent in the deaths of Susan Cox Powell’s children, Braden and Charlie Powell.

The decision, which was read in a Pierce County, Washington, courtroom Friday afternoon, said the jury found the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services negligent in the boys’ deaths.

The jury awarded the boys’ grandparents, Charles and Judy Cox, a total of $115 million in monetary damages ($57.5 million for each of the boys), saying $16,491,000 of the damages were caused by Josh Powell.

Dave Cawley, host of KSL’s COLD podcast, said it appears monetary damages from the lawsuit will come in around $98 million.

“Nothing can bring back the boys, but this is the end of a nightmare, and it’s gratifying to hear a jury tell the state they were wrong, and to award a verdict that will force them to change the culture at DHS to make sure this doesn’t happen to other children in the future,” said Charles Cox.

Attorneys said Braden and Charlie Powell were killed by their father, Josh Powell, on Feb. 5, 2012.

Social worker Elizabeth Hall arrived with the boys for a supervised visit with their father that day. A Washington judge had previously ordered Powell be granted supervised visitation rights with his sons.

Hall said Powell slammed the front door of the home after the boys entered and locked her out.

She called 911 but before police could arrive, the house burst into flames. Firefighters would later find the bodies just feet inside the front door.

The Coxes filed suit against the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services for its handling of the boys’ case.

That lawsuit was thrown out by a lower court before it was reinstated by an appeals court in 2019.

Earlier this year, Susan Powell’s parents argued state social workers failed to protect their grandsons from Powell, who killed both boys and himself eight years ago.

Attorney Ted Buck highlighted three areas of perceived fault: the failure to conduct a domestic violence assessment on Powell, disregarding safety concerns surrounding the supervised visitation at Powell’s home and the handling of court-ordered psychological evaluations of Powell.

It was during one of those visits at a home Powell had rented in the community of Graham, Washington, that attorneys said he took their lives, attacking each in turn with a hatchet before setting fire to the house.

The state, Buck said, had “delivered the boys without precaution to a place where Josh had complete control.”

Buck told the jury in his testimony against Powell he hoped they would award $5 million for every minute that each of the boys suffered. He had offered a ballpark figure of $85 million.

“That’s the only way that we can hold the state accountable for its complete failure to care for these boys,” Buck said.

Assistant Washington Attorney General Lori Ann Nicolavo had responded by saying social workers did not have the legal authority to stop Powell’s visitation rights despite any “gut feelings” that Powell would hurt the children.

The trial was extended through the summer due to court restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We faced so many legal obstacles to get to trial, and then the extraordinary circumstances of trying the case in the midst of a pandemic, we are so gratified by the jury’s verdict and their commitment to justice,” said Anne Bremner, an attorney for the Cox family.

See KSL’s full coverage of the case here.

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