$98.5 Million Award Restored in Susan Cox Powell Case
Seattle lawyer Anne Bremner says missing woman’s parents finally have justice for murdered grandsons
Super Lawyers online-exclusive
By Beth Taylor on May 8, 2023
Three years after a judge reduced the $98.5 million jury award in a wrongful-death suit brought by Susan Cox Powell’s parents on behalf of her sons, a Washington appeals court has restored the full amount of the verdict.
Judith and Charles Cox, whose daughter has been missing since 2009 and is presumed dead, accused the state Department of Social and Health Services of failing to do enough to keep their 7- and 5-year-old grandsons safe from their father, Josh Powell, who killed Charlie and Braden Powell in 2012.
Search for justice
“Chuck and Judy Cox have been on a 12-year mission for justice for Charlie and Braden,” says Seattle civil litigator Anne Bremner, who has represented the Coxes for more than a decade. She tried the case along with Seattle litigators Evan Bariault and Ted Buck, both with Frey Buck. “This road has been long and emotionally exhausting for them, their family and those who cherished Susan, Charlie, and Braden.”
The boys had been placed with their grandparents after child pornography was found at the Puyallup home of their grandfather, Steven Powell. His son, Josh Powell, had moved into the house with his sons after their mother went missing from their Utah home. Josh Powell was being investigated in her disappearance. After Steven Powell was convicted of possessing child pornography and the boys were moved to the Coxes’ home, Josh Powell rented a house in Graham and was allowed supervised visits there with his sons.
In February 2012, Charles Cox called a DSHS employee and said he was worried about the boys being allowed to visit their father, who DSHS had found out was probably about to be arrested in his wife’s disappearance. Cox was told that the visits were safe.
But on Feb. 5, 2012, Josh Powell locked out the DSHS social worker who brought his sons for a visit, attacked the boys with a hatchet and set fire to the house. The boys and Josh Powell all died.
In 2020, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh reduced the wrongful-death award by two-thirds, to $32.8 million, but the Washington Court of Appeals recently agreed with the Coxes that the jury verdict was supported by the evidence.
“On behalf of Chuck and Judy, we appreciate the thoughtful consideration of the court of appeals,” says Bremner, “and hope that, with this decision, the state will finally acknowledge its failures so that a better system may emerge to protect our children when in the custody of the state.”
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