Albertson v. State of Washington DSHS

Case type: Government liability, Sexual abuse
Award: $11 million Settlement
Attorneys: Jack Connelly, Lincoln Beauregard

Case Summary

Plaintiffs, minor male children, between the ages of 5 and 12 years old. This case involved the severe sexual abuse of eight young boys who were placed in a foster home by defendant DSHS into the home of foster parent Def. Ronald Young. The evidence revealed that information was provided to both Def. Seattle Police Department and Def. Tacoma Police Department that would have ended the abuse and led to the immediate arrests of the foster parents if acted upon. Instead, several months passed by without investigation or actions, resulting in plaintiffs’ severe emotional and psychological suffering.

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Case Details

As the Plffs’ file sat on the desks of the Defs.' two police agencies, the young boys were subjected to continuous acts of sexual abuse. The childrens' images were then uploaded on the internet. (Plffs contended that even the pedophiles who viewed the images on the internet objected to the acts being perpetrated upon the children.) The evidentiary record reveals that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”) discovered the photographic images of abuse within a few days of their appearance on the internet and retraced the electronic trail left behind by the person who uploaded the images, determining that he or she lived near Tacoma, Washington and communicated over the internet using specific internet protocol addressed registered to Sprint Communications - the two pieces of information necessary to locate the precise physical location from which the images originated. NCMEC contended they promptly shared this information with Def. Seattle Police Department (“SPD”). Def. SPD contended that it then relayed the information to Def. Tacoma Police Department (“TPD”), though this could not be proven.

Def. TPD contended that it did not receive the information until much later. Plffs contended that Defs. SPD and TPD both inexplicably failed to investigate the matter and failed to notify Def. DSHS about the existence of the abuse pursuant to its obligations under RCW 26.44. The matter remained dormant for nearly six months before Def. TPD finally initiated an investigation. When it did so, Def. “TPD relied solely on the information previously provided by NCMEC to obtain the search warrants that led it to Mr. Young's home and his arrest,” - meaning that Def. TPD could have stopped the abuse much earlier had it acted upon the information when first received. Significantly, Def. TPD also had been provided with photographs of one of the children, his first name, eventually his initials and information that the abuser called himself “fosterdad.” Even without reference internet tracing, investigation through Def. DSHS, and the mandatory reporting, would have led to the child and the childrens' location.

Plffs also brought claims against Def. DSHS due to the fact that they had licensed and continued to license Defs. Young, notwithstanding several misrepresentations on his applications as a foster parent and failure of the social workers who were responsible for monitoring the home to properly supervise the children. As is typical with Def. DSHS fostercare placements, there was a significant lack of continuity and no one seemed to be looking out for the welfare of the children on a continuous basis. Finally, after the case had been pending for some time, Plffs filed claims against Def. Wendy, the wife of Def. Ronald under a homeowner's policy and statutory insurance for foster parents. These claims resolved before the primary claims.