State Settles Lawsuit for $6.85 Million With Man Who Nearly Died in His Family’s Care
The state has agreed to pay $6.85 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a young man with autism and developmental delays who nearly died in his family’s care in Tacoma.
Dustyn Wilson’s lawsuit alleged that the state Department of Social and Health services had warnings that he wasn’t safe with his family as a child and adult.
Today the 22-year-old is cared for at an adult family home.
“Thankfully, Dustyn has a trusted and capable guardian who was appointed by the court,” his attorney, David P. Moody, said in a statement. “The funds will be used to help Dustyn recover, obtain needed services and move forward.”
The Department of Children, Youth and Families is the agency that now oversees child welfare in the state.
“In 2018, Washington established a new agency, DCYF, to bring together child and family programs such as Early Learning, Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare under one agency that has responsibility for the state’s prevention and intervention work to protect children and strengthen families,” DCYF and DSHS said in a joint statement Tuesday. “The lawsuit alleges the plaintiff, a developmentally delayed DSHS client, suffered years of abuse and neglect by their family as a child and as an adult. The circumstances of the case are tragic. DSHS and DCYF leadership hope this settlement ensures the quality care needed for the rest of the plaintiff’s life.”
Each agency will pay half the settlement.
Wilson’s lawsuit, filed in November in Pierce County Superior Court, gave this account of what happened:
Child Protective Services had reports of neglect and abuse throughout Wilson’s childhood.
He went to live with a foster family at the age of 11, and soon after his father sought custody.
Wilson had not had a relationship with him since he was 4 and told social workers repeatedly that he was afraid of his father and did not want to see him.
Part of a safety plan authored by a DSHS social worker for Wilson the next year, cited in the lawsuit, said that the father had “not addressed his parental deficiencies and Dustyn would be at grave risk of abuse or neglect if returned to his care at this time.”
Wilson still was placed in the home, and in June 2017 social workers noted Wilson looked “very skinny” and had not gotten medical attention in more than a year.
It was in June 2018 that the family called 911 to report that Wilson wasn’t breathing.
He weighed 70 pounds when he was taken to an intensive care unit in critical condition.
Wilson was malnourished and “incapable of fighting infection which nearly resulted in his death,” a report from medical professionals said.
His stepmother told police she and Wilson’s father couldn’t properly care for him.
They pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment last year in Pierce County Superior Court and were sentenced as first-time offenders to six months of community custody.
“The taxpayers give almost $10 billion to DSHS to protect our most vulnerable,” Moody said. “If the Legislature won’t hold DSHS accountable, it’s up to our court system. Frankly, it’s up to all of us.”
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