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.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah

...

Alex Cabrero

South Jordan residents react to thousands of tumbleweeds in front of their homes

As heavy winds blew through a Daybreak neighborhood in South Jordan, avoiding tumbleweeds kind of became a sport.

15 hours ago

Salt Lake City International Airport is also being impacted by the winterstorm moving through Utah....

Mark Jones

Delays, cancelations reported at Salt Lake City International Airport

As of 7:40 p.m. on Saturday, airport officials said 146 flights had been delayed, which is 39% of the departing flights.

15 hours ago

Crews working on a power pole that was damaged when heavy winds blew through the area near Shivwits...

Derrick Jones

Power restored to thousands, work continues, after winter slams Utah

Rocky Mountain Power attributed the outages to power lines downed or damaged by the wind and snow.

19 hours ago

Dusk on the last day of the 2024 legislative session at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Frida...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko

The Utah 2024 Legislative Session is over. Here’s what lawmakers did

Utah lawmakers made the most out of the 2024 general legislative session, passing 591 bills, surpassing last year's previous high of 575.

23 hours ago

Tumbleweeds surround an Eagle Mountain home on March 2, 2024. (Photo credit: Brennen Katsos)...

Josh Ellis

High winds hit Wasatch Front as storm moves in

Winds will continue to increase over western Utah valleys Saturday ahead of a front and spread into southern Utah.

23 hours ago

A lone camper truck moves north bound on the I-80 at the Donner Pass Exit on Friday, March 1, 2024,...

SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press

Blizzard ‘as bad as it gets’ hits California, Nevada. Strip of I-80 shut down

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning through Sunday for a 300-mile stretch of the mountain range.

23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Covid-19 delays continue in Susan Powell family lawsuit