Washington state to pay $3.1M to settle lawsuit

The state is set to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit over alleged severe neglect at an adult family home.

  • By Wire Service
  • Wednesday, June 7, 2023 11:20am
  • Northwest
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Associated Press

SEATTLE — Washington state is set to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit over alleged severe neglect at an adult family home — in addition to more than $300,000 in penalties levied by a judge for wrongful withholding of evidence, officials said.

The settlement announced by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office Monday will pay $3,125,000 to plaintiff Emily Tobin, The Seattle Times reported.

Tobin has developmental disabilities and was allegedly neglected after the state placed her at the home in the Seattle suburb of Kent. The settlement, which requires court approval, would also stop a court-ordered investigation into the state’s handling of evidence.

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Ryan previously slammed the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Social and Health Services for an “egregious” and “cavalier” failure to turn over thousands of pages of records to Tobin’s attorneys.

Ryan in March fined the state $200,000 for its conduct and added another $122,555 in attorney’s fees in a May order.

The Attorney General’s Office acknowledged that it had withheld some 11,000 pages of records relevant to the lawsuit while trying to get it dismissed. The state has since admitted it had found another 100,000 pages of additional documents it needed to turn over.

David Moody, an attorney representing Tobin, told the newspaper in a statement, “Emily is grateful to the Court” for starting to hold the attorney general’s office accountable.

Moody called the conduct “a stain” on the Attorney General’s office “that reaches the highest level.”

Ferguson took responsibility for the errors in a statement sent through his office Monday.

“AG Ferguson recognizes that the buck stops with him. Discovery sanctions are unacceptable,” said the statement emailed by Brionna Aho, a spokesperson for the office.

The lawsuit and discovery violations come at a politically inopportune time for Ferguson, a Democrat who is running for governor.

The statement from his office said that “the issues that led to the sanctions” show a need for better communication between the AG’s office and Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), and said some of the problems arose when an attorney went on parental leave.

“We are reviewing our discovery protocols to determine what changes are appropriate. AG Ferguson is overseeing a review. A personnel investigation is ongoing,” the statement said.

The lawsuit filed in 2021 alleged “negligent care and treatment” of Tobin by the state and the Ayasha Adult Family Home.

An attorney representing Ayasha Adult Family Home previously denied the lawsuit’s allegations, which included a lack of nutritious diet and lack of hygiene care, in a statement, saying Tobin “and was provided quality care during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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