Abused girl gets $1.5 million settlement from state

The Seattle Times

November 13, 2009

A child who was sexually molested, burned with cigarettes and beaten with a spatula by her paternal grandparents will receive a $1.5 million settlement from two state agencies.

Attorneys for the 14-year-old girl said the Department of Corrections (DOC) failed to supervise the girl's grandfather, a convicted child molester, and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) left the girl in the home despite "abundant" warnings about the care she was receiving.

"This is a case in which there was horrific abuse, and DSHS did have abundant notice that there were mistakes," said Lincoln Beauregard, one of the girl's attorneys, who released information about the settlement on Friday.

Beauregard, however, gave credit to the state's social-service agency for "stepping up to the plate instead of fighting a case where they knew they were wrong."

Steve Williams, a spokesman for DSHS said, "We regret the trauma the young girl suffered at the hands of her relative. We hope the settlement assists her as she completes her education and moves on to a full and productive life."

DOC spokeswoman Maria Peterson said, "The Department hopes this settlement will help reduce the pain of her experience and that it will offer her opportunities for a positive future."

According to the claim, the girl was placed in her paternal grandmother's home in Okanogan County when she was 2 months old.

The child's mother had encounters with the law that rendered her unable to care for her daughter, Beauregard said.

In 1999, the girl's grandfather was released from prison after being twice convicted on child-molestation charges, Beauregard said.

The grandfather's parole officer notified CPS about the danger he believed the grandfather would pose to the child, but the girl remained in her grandparents' home, Beauregard said.

Beauregard said DOC did not go far enough in its supervision.

According to the claim, the girl was sexually abused by her grandfather and physically abused by her grandmother repeatedly over many years.

Beauregard and co-counsel Crystal J. McDonald and Erik L. Bauer said the girl's head was slammed into a wall and that she was burned with cigarettes and beaten with spatulas. She was removed from the home in 2004. Beauregard said the child is living with her mother in Pierce County and is doing well.

Her attorneys report that about one-third of the settlement will be paid in attorneys' fees. A portion of the settlement will be used to procure counseling and tutoring for the child, Beauregard said.

"She's doing much better," he said. "One part of her life has now closed and she can move forward."

BY CHRISTINE CLARRIDGE, SEATTLE TIMES STAFF REPORTER