WA AG, DSHS fined $200K for withholding evidence

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office and Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) were fined $200,000 in what a judge has called an “egregious” withholding of evidence in an ongoing lawsuit.

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Ryan ordered the AG’s office and DSHS to pay the fine as a sanction for the state failing to turn over 11,000 pages of records to prosecutors in a lawsuit involving the neglect of a developmentally disabled woman at an assisted living facility in Kent.

“The discovery violations, in this case, are egregious, severe, without excuse and the result of willful disregard of discovery obligations by both DSHS and the attorney general’s office,” Ryan wrote in his 12-page order.

Her attorneys said she suffered negligent care and treatment while living at a state-licensed adult family home in Kent. Her attorneys at Hagens Berman filed the suit in 2021 but said the Attorney General’s office withheld documents, only releasing them last month.

The Attorney General’s office said in a statement they did not intentionally withhold the documents and found an additional 100,000 pages wrongfully withheld. Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Meyer said the state “deeply regrets the errors in discovery in this case and is working to rectify them.”

The woman’s attorneys claim Ferguson’s office tried to prevent them from asking about records while moving to dismiss the suit.

The attorneys now want the state to pay $214,000 in legal fees, with more possible as that amount doesn’t include the time it will take for Hagens Berman attorneys to review the new documents.

The judge also ordered an investigation into whether the state hid any more documents, also at taxpayer expense.

In light of the new discoveries, a new trial for the lawsuit against the adult family home is set for December.

This news comes as Ferguson announces an exploratory campaign for Washington governor.

Kate Stone contributed to this report