State settles suit over 6 abused brothers for $6.6 million

According to the 2009 lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, the abuse occurred while the boys were living with their mother in Seattle in a home where drugs and alcohol were rampant. Their mother, a drug addict, neglected the children and their biological father was physically abusive, according to Tamaki.

But it was a series of the mother’s boyfriends, he said, who potentially caused the most “horrific” damage to the younger children by sexually and physically abusing them for years.

The two older boys, who were not victims of sexual abuse, each received awards of $300,000, according to Tamaki’s co-counsel Bryan Smith. The four younger brothers were together awarded $5.95 million, Smith said.

Tamaki said most of the 33 complaints filed with the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) between 1992 and 2000 were made by the boys’ maternal grandmother, but there were several “serious incident” reports made by health professionals and counselors. A number of the complaints were found to have merit, Tamaki said, but no meaningful action was ever taken to protect the children.

Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for the Children’s Administration, said the caseworker who failed to appropriately follow up on the complaints left the agency years ago for unrelated reasons.

She said better protective policies and procedures have been established in the years since.

It’s hard to read about what happened to these kids and not be sympathetic. I don’t begrudge them their awards. At the same time, though, this sort of thing makes me rather uncomfortable. Even though there are ways that the state could have put a stop to this and there were screw-ups, the kids were not in the care of the state and this kind of penalty for inaction would make me concerned that it could lead authorities to be too pro-active in removing children from their home.


Category: Courthouse, Newsroom

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7 Responses to Penalizing CPS Inaction

  1. Peter says:

    none of the adults have ever been criminally charged in connection with the case

    I’d really like to know why.

  2. Kevin says:

    I’m surprised the state doesn’t have sovereign immunity. Usually they do for claims like this.

  3. Kevin says:

    I’m surprised the state doesn’t have sovereign immunity. Usually they do for claims like this.

  4. Brandon Berg says:

    …this kind of penalty for inaction would make me concerned that it could lead authorities to be too pro-active in removing children from their home.

    I was thinking that, but…would it, really? I’m not sure exactly how the money is flowing here. Ultimately, of course, it’s the taxpayers who are going to end up paying, but is anyone in government actually going to be impacted in any way? The specific individual who was supposed to be handling the case is gone now, so nobody will be held personally responsible. They can’t take it out of the CPS budget, can they? They need that money for CPSing (and may even try to play the “underfunded” card to explain the failure). Does the state have a pool of “sorry!” money set aside for stuff like this?

  5. stone says:

    “COULD lead to?” Honey, we’re there already. Pretty soon every kid will just live in foster care, just in case.

    You never hear much about kids taken from their homes for stupid reasons, but I see it every week.

  6. Mike Hunt says:

    Doing some quick math, it seems like there is a $1,187,500 premium for sexual abuse.

    Sadly, I was never cute enough for anyone to molest me…

    Anyway, I would be surprised if this sort of case became the norm, since it could easily bankrupt states. Maybe the state decided to waive its own immunity in this case since it was so egregious. It says that it is a settlement; maybe a judge would have thrown it out.

  7. trumwill says:

    Kevin and Mike, I think that Washington specifically passed a law to allow these kinds of lawsuits to proceed. I don’t have time to look it up at the moment, though.

    Peter, I’d kind of like to know, too.

    I was thinking that, but…would it, really? I’m not sure exactly how the money is flowing here.

    It’s not coming out of their purse-strings, but it’s the type of thing that gets attention and “Don’t make this mistake again!” sort of instructions.

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