Said Sheikh v. State of Washington DSHS
Case type: Government Liability, Premises Liability, Negligence
Award: $10.3 million verdict, reduced to $8.8 million – DSHS 85% liable; $4.5 million settlement against King County; $300,000 settlement against Shell Oil
Attorneys: Jack Connelly
Plaintiff Said Aba Sheikh was brutally attacked at the age of 16 by four violent foster youth in the parking lot of a Shell gasoline station. Three of the four were had been residing in the same foster home for several years together and had a history of gang-like beatings, burglary and rape. Plaintiff Sheikh’s beating was the last in a long line of assaults and serious crimes. Defendant DSHS had been notified by neighbors and the foster mother, defendant Daniels, many times that the youth were out of control and needed to be removed. The boys’ parole officers failed to properly supervise the youth, and defendant DSHS failed to take necessary action after numerous red flags.
Before the beating, Plaintiff Sheikh was very bright and intelligent student who spoke five languages. He sustained traumatic brain injury resulting in severe impairment of cognitive abilities. The beating left plaintiff Sheikh with injuries; he is on oxygen, unable to walk over fifty yards, has the mental capacity of an eight or nine year old and requires hospitalization in intensive care six to ten times every year. His life expectancy was significantly reduced.
In The News
The brutal attack took place at a Seattle Shell gasoline station. Four youths pulled him from his vehicle and attacked gang style, slammed to the ground and then brutally kicked in the head and stomach. Three of the four boys, Defs. Pierre, Anderson and Gallow were living in the foster home of Def. Daniels.
All three of the Defs. were known by Def. DSHS to be using drugs, have anger management problems, criminal propensities and special needs. In addition to these three high-needs boys, Def. Daniels also had two other high-needs adolescent boys living in her home as well as additional foster children. During the period in question Def. Daniels was a single mother who worked full time at Sears and had nine children living with her including multiple high-needs children who needed intense, close supervision.
Def. DSHS's records revealed that they were well aware that this supervision was not occurring but did nothing about it. Investigation after the attack revealed the tremendous amount of notice to Def. DSHS that this placement was failing. Def. Daniels had notified Def. DSHS that the Def. youths were out of control and that she wanted them out of the home. Discovery revealed that Def. DSHS' licensing had not been monitoring the home for two years and then had attempted to back date their records to cover the period in question.
Def. DSHS's placement and social workers had received numerous repeated notices from members of the community that the Def. youths were out of control and assaulting and attacking people in the community. The Def. youths had engaged in a series of escalating attacks, numerous felonies including burglary and rape, gang style beatings, drug use and were completely refusing to follow the requirements of the foster home. Def. DSHS' own records revealed that members of the community had notified the agency that the placement was not working and that the Def. youths were engaged in gang style behavior. Even Def. Daniels had repeatedly told Def. DSHS that the Def. youths were out of control. Def. Daniels repeatedly requested that they be removed from the home but Def. DSHS refused to do so. Def. youths continued to commit felonies and attack people in the neighboring community.
Def. DSHS records revealed that they were well aware that the placement was failing, that Def. youths were committing an escalating series of crimes, that Def. youths could not be controlled and were engaged in gang style activities. Notwithstanding this notice, Def. DSHS failed to follow its own guidelines and left Def. youths to continue to commit crimes. At one point, Def. Daniels told Def. DSHS to get Def. youths out of the home within thirty days because she couldn't control them.
The Def. youths were convicted and sent to prison afterward. Def. DSHS had utterly failed to do anything to assist or help the Def. youths. Def.'s placement monitoring function had not reacted to any of the notices and its licensing division had permitted the home to exist without review even though the license had expired. Plff brought claims against Def. King County due to the failure of Def.'s probation officers to properly supervise Def. youths on probation. Plff also brought premises liability claims against Def. Shell Oil Company on an apparent agency theory.