Government employees have an obligation to serve the public. In the event that their actions result in an individual being harmed, the injured has the right to pursue legal recourse against the employees themselves and/or the government entity. A recent case involving a child and his abusive father highlights what happens when a government entity designed to protect people, fails them.
Aiden Barnum of Kingston, Washington is a child who has been through an unfathomable amount of physical, emotional and psychological pain. The mistreatment started when he was just 14 days old. He was rushed to the hospital for what doctors diagnosed as a fractured arm. But what concerned doctors most was how it was inflicted. Out of the six doctors that had baby Aiden in their care, they all suspected that his injury was caused by physical abuse. The doctors also believed that the perpetrator was Jacob Mejia, Aiden's 17-year-old biological father. A CPS social worker from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) was assigned to the case to conduct an investigation.
After what seemed like a thorough investigation, the social worker concluded in reports that the baby would be put in “serious and immediate harm” if sent home. But the worker decided to send him home anyway. In fact, rather than separating the child from his suspected abuser, talking to law enforcement, viewing medical records and forming a Child Protection Team, the social worker decided to hand-write a safety plan. The plan detailed what Aiden's parents needed to do from then on to ensure Aiden's safety. This weak effort was a clear violation of the protocols and mandates issued by state law that are designed to protect children's lives.
Unfortunately, just a month later Aiden ended up back in the emergency room. But this time he had sustained life-threatening injuries. He suffered another broken arm, four broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a brain bleed and a fractured skull. The injury to his skill led him to suffer a traumatic brain injury. Aiden's father was sentenced to 25 years in prison for child abuse.
In the aftermath of this incident, Aiden was immediately stripped from his parent's care and adopted by a suitable couple, Melissa and Bill Barnum. It was their choice to sue the DSHS worker for failing to protect their baby. As a result of Aiden's father's abuse, the boy now faced a long list of health issues, including cerebral palsy, autism, seizure disorder and epilepsy.
After the four-year long case, jurors found the DSHS worker negligent in the case. However, according to Aiden's lawyer, last minute jury instructions led the panel to relieve the state of any form of liability. When this occurred, the Barnums appealed and won a new trial, but decided to settle with a payout of $5 million.
“That was the whole point of the whole (legal) case, to make sure that Aiden is taken care of,” said Aiden's adoptive mother, Melissa Barnum. “In your heart that gets mixed up with wanting the state to say they are sorry, but really the most important part is making sure he's taken care of, and we've done that.”
If you have been injured as a result of someone else's actions, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the experienced attorneys at Benassi & Benassi for a consultation.