SEATTLE (ABC4 News) – An appeals court determined a lawsuit filed by the family of Susan Cox Powell’s family can proceed.
Susan Cox Powell’s parents, Judith and Charles Cox, filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services claiming negligence after Powell’s children were murdered by their father during a social-worker-supervised visit.
On February 5, 2012, a social worker brought the children to Josh Powell’s home for a scheduled visit.
“As they had done on prior visits, the boys, anxious to see their father, ran into the house ahead of the visitation supervisor,” court documents state. Josh Powell then locked the door to prevent the visitation supervisor from entering the home and then bludgeoned the boys to death before setting the house on fire and killing himself.
The Coxes’ lawsuit accuses the social workers of disregarding facts that showed Josh presented a serious risk of harm to the boys. The lawsuit also claims DSHS failed to investigate and monitor Joshua prior to and during the visits.
Court documents state a psychologist evaluated Josh between October 2011 and January 2012. The psychologists’ initial report “registered concerns about some of Josh’s behaviors but concluded supervised visits should continue.”
In 2012, the psychologist created an addendum to his report that concluded Josh “may not presently be a stable and appropriate resource for his children.”
Court documents also state the Coxes told the social workers about their concerns Josh would harm the boys.
The court’s conclusion: “Material issues of fact exist regarding whether DSHS used reasonable care to avoid placing the boys in harm’s way including determining Joshua’s visitation location, facilitating the February 5, 2012 visitation, and training its social workers to conduct visitations.”
The court’s ruling Thursday reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit, so the case can go to trial.
Susan Cox Powell disappeared in 2009. Her husband Josh later moved to Washington and remained a person of interest up until his death in 2012.