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New trial date set in wrongful death lawsuit regarding Susan Powell's sons

New trial date set in wrongful death lawsuit regarding Susan Powell's sons

(Family photo)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Washington trial date has finally been set in a wrongful death lawsuit regarding Susan Powell’s sons.

The trial is set for Feb. 10, 2020, according to Pierce County, Washington, Superior Court records. It is expected to last 29 days and utilize a 12-member jury, according to court records.

Susan Powell’s parents Judy and Chuck Cox, among others, filed the lawsuit in July 2012 against the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and other defendants.

Charlie Powell, 7, and Braden Powell, 5, died Feb. 5, 2012, after authorities say Josh Powell — Susan’s husband and the boys' father — bludgeoned the boys and then burned down his Graham, Washington, home, killing them and himself in the process.

At the time, the boys were under state supervision and were living with Judy and Chuck Cox, court documents state. A visitation supervisor brought the boys to Josh’s home on the day they died, but Josh locked the door before the supervisor could enter the home, federal court documents state.

Susan Powell was 28 and living in West Valley City when she vanished in December 2009.

The Coxes' wrongful death case started in Pierce County Superior Court but was eventually appealed in 2017 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, after a U.S. District judge in Washington dismissed the suit.

In January of this year, the federal court panel affirmed part of the lower court’s ruling, but reversed another part, sending it back to Pierce County Superior Court for trial.

The 9th Circuit panel ruled that individual social workers in the Powell case did not act with negligence in the case.

“(There) was insufficient evidence to show that the social workers recognized, or should have recognized, an objectively substantial risk that (Josh Powell) would physically harm his sons,” the ruling, authored by U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi, states.

However, the panel held that there were “material issues of fact” in determining whether the Department of Social and Health Services “used reasonable care” in handling the Powell boys' case.

“Addressing the negligence claims, the panel held that the Department of Social and Health Services had a duty to investigate in order to reasonably ensure that a child is not placed in an abusive situation,” the ruling states.

The issues were found regarding the department’s selection of visitation location, facilitating the Feb. 5, 2012, visitation, and training its employees to conduct visitations, according to the ruling. Those issues raise questions about whether the department’s actions “caused the boys to be placed in harm’s way,” the ruling states.

Those issues should be brought up at the Washington trial, according to the ruling.

Contributing: Dave Cawley, KSL Newsradio

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