The State of Washington has agreed to a $3 million settlement with a woman who gave birth as a 12 year-old girl in Spokane in 1995. The woman is a Tacoma native now in her early 30s and living in the Midwest. She said she went onto suffer more than fifteen years of sexual and emotional abuse from the baby’s father, who was her mother’s boyfriend.
The victim and her family moved out of the state shortly after the baby was born in 1995 at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane and moved around Idaho, Washington, and Utah.
The settlement averts a trial and compensates the victim for her damages, which may include counseling and therapy and compensatory damages for pain and suffering. According to the state, it’s one of the largest single-plaintiff case awards in DSHS’ history. In the settlement, the state admitted to no wrongdoing.
A Negligence Claim
The case was brought against the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) for failing to properly investigate when the victim was pregnant at age 12 and for failing to intervene when they had knowledge of abuse.
The victim’s attorneys obtained state documents showing a “summary assessment” completed by DSHS in March 1996 noted possible sexual abuse, but DSHS failed to take any action. The victim was impregnated a second time by her mother’s boyfriend and gave birth to a second child 10 months after the first child was born.
The victim, who said the abuse began when she was 9, said her mother’s boyfriend told her he would kill her and her family if she ever told anyone. More details on this story, can be found here.
What’s the Statute of Limitations?
The victim’s perpetrator has not been charged with a crime and the statute of limitations has run out. Some states have no criminal statute of limitations for child rape but Washington is not one of them.
The victim finally was able to leave her family at about age 27 and subsequently filed the lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court in April 2012. So how was the woman able to bring a case 17 years later?
Under Washington law, childhood sexual abuse has special provision that allow for claims to be brought within three years of the time the victim discovered or should have reasonably discovered that the injury of condition was caused by sexual abuse.
Since the woman was essentially held captive until age 27, she was able to bring a claim more than a decade after the claimed negligence by DSHS occurred.