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Aba Sheikh v. King County, DSHS & Shell Oil – $10,300,000 Jury Verdict

About the case

From the Seattle Times:

Aba Sheikh, then 16, had been in the United States just eight months when he was attacked on March 27, 1999. He had survived a civil war in Somalia, the disappearance of both of parents and years in a refugee camp in Kenya with his extended family. With his uncle’s help, he settled in West Seattle.

He appears to have barely known Pierre, Anderson and Michael G. that Saturday when he rode by them on a pink bike. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Aba Sheikh and Michael G. squared off, but Aba Sheikh left without any blows exchanged.

That evening, Aba Sheikh and a family friend drove into a West Seattle gas station to buy a phone card. The trio of foster boys, along with another friend, Pulefano Ativalu, were smoking pot at a bus stop across the street.

As the group ran over to the car, Aba Sheikh’s friend ran into the store terrified. The attackers gave conflicting testimony at trial, but Aba Sheikh was dragged out of the car, then kicked in the head about 10 times by Pierre and Anderson.

Pierre and Ativalu, both 16 at the time of the attack, were convicted of assault as adults and are serving sentences of at least 10 years. Anderson, 15 at the time, is serving more than seven years as an adult. Michael G., also 15 at the time, was convicted as a juvenile and is now out.

On the stand last week, Pierre, in a prison-red jumpsuit, slouched into the witness chair. Asked why the assault happened, he shook his head. “Nothing else to do, I guess.”

The jury found the state Department of Social and Health Services failed to heed warnings about an escalating crime spree of two foster children involved in an assault on Said Aba Sheikh.

The jury said it intended the unusually big award to pay for the 20-year-old’s lifelong medical care.

DSHS officials protested yesterday’s verdict, saying it unfairly holds caseworkers accountable for criminal acts outside their control. DSHS has often been held responsible for harm to foster children, but Aba Sheikh’s case is one of just a handful that pinned blame for harm done by foster children.

The jury, which deliberated over three days, also ordered King County to pay Aba Sheikh $1.5 million for failing to provide adequate probation supervision of three of Aba Sheikh’s attackers in the months before the assault.


  • Jury Verdict: $10,300,000

Cause Number

  • King County Superior Court, No. 02-2-05199-5


  • King County
  • Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
  • Shell Oil


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