Special Reports

Lawyers representing Susan Cox Powell prepare to file damages claim against state in boys' deaths

Two Seattle attorneys are preparing to file a claim for damages against the State of Washington on behalf of missing Utah mother Susan Cox Powell. The claim will accuse the state of negligence in the deaths of Powell’s sons, Charlie and Braden.

James S. Rogers and Anne Bremner filed paperwork in Pierce County Superior Court on Monday seeking to have a guardian ad litem appointed to represent Powell’s interests in a “cause of action for injuries allegedly sustained as a result of negligence of State of Washington, Department of Social and Health Services, resulting in the death of her children …”

Bremner is the longtime attorney for Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox of Puyallup.

“This didn’t have to happen,” Rogers said of the deaths of Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5.

The boy’s father, Josh Powell, attacked them with a hatchet at his Graham-area home Feb. 5 before setting fire to the house, killing the three of them. DSHS officials were monitoring Josh Powell as he worked to regain custody of his sons, who were taken by the state in September 2011 after detectives raided the home of their grandfather, Steven Craig Powell.

A Superior Court commissioner signed an order Monday appointing Seattle attorney William Dussault to act as Susan Powell’s guardian ad litem until any litigation is resolved.

Susan Powell has been missing since December 2009, and is presumed dead, when she disappeared under mysterious circumstances from her suburban Salt Lake City home. Josh Powell was being investigated in her disappearance at the time of his death, but was never arrested or charged with a crime in his wife’s disappearance.

Rogers said Thursday he expects to file the claim – the precursor to a lawsuit – next week.

DSHS does not comment on pending litigation.

The agency released a report Thursday detailing the findings of a review into the deaths of Charlie and Braden. The report found  DSHS officials could have done a better job monitoring Josh Powell’s behavior and consulting with law enforcement, but that their handling of the case “was consistent with and sometimes exceeded accepted standards for child welfare practice and procedures …”

Rogers disagreed.

“The evidence of negligence is considerably stronger than what was released in the report,” he said.