A new court ruling could help Susan Cox Powell’s family in a lawsuit against Washington’s child welfare system

Posted at 1:36 PM, Nov 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-26 15:36:40-05

A new ruling by the Washington Supreme Court could help Susan Cox Powell’s family in their lawsuit against that state’s child welfare system over the deaths of her children.

Susan Cox Powell and her sons, Charlie and Braden. (submitted photo)

Susan’s parents, Judy and Chuck Cox, are suing Washington state over the 2012 deaths of Charlie and Braden Powell. The boys were killed by their father, Josh Powell, who was also suspected in the disappearance and death of his wife, Susan. The boys were in state protective custody while police investigated voyeurism accusations about Josh’s father, Steven Powell. (He ultimately was convicted, served prison time and died in July.)

Susan Cox Powell disappeared in 2009 from her West Valley City home and has never been found. Josh Powell killed himself and his sons in an explosion at a home in Graham, Wash.

The Cox family sued Washington’s child protective services system, arguing it had responsibility over the children and should have done more to ensure they were safe. The lawsuit made it to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which put it on hold while it awaited a lawsuit brought by four children in foster care who allege Washington failed to protect them from abuse in the system.

In a filing recently, the state of Washington informed the judges the Supreme Court had ruled. The Court found Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services did have some responsibility.

“Under well-established common law tort principles, DSHS owes a duty of reasonable care to protect foster children from abuse at the hands of their foster parents,” the ruling said.

The ruling could bolster the Cox family’s chances before the 9th Circuit Court.

“We are hoping that justice will be served in this tragic case and are encouraged by the recent ruling of the Washington State Supreme Court and the anticipated reliance on that decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Anne Bremner, an attorney for the Cox family, told FOX 13.