$6,445,000 SETTLEMENT – COUNTY SOCIAL WORKER FAILS TO STOP CHILD ABUSE

When plaintiff was born in September 2005, Alameda County Social Services took the baby away from his mother because she was homeless and abusing drugs and placed him with a man who claimed to be the father.  The presumed father had been convicted of several drug related felonies, of domestic violence, causing injury and had served several terms in State prison.  In December 2005 the presumed father violently threw the baby down, causing a severe traumatic brain injury.  Under California law, Alameda County was immune from any liability for the negligent placement of the child.

The baby sustained severe permanent brain damage with cognitive impairment, extremity weakness and cortical vision impairment.  The diagnosis was "shaken baby syndrome."  We contended that the social worker assigned to the case had failed to visit the baby each month in the home.  Under the circumstances of the placement, an Alameda County Social Services worker had the mandatory duty to visit the child in the home at least once every month.  The social worker failed to discover the abuse of the baby that had been occurring.  The social worker’s log of visits claimed she had visited the home in October and November to check on the welfare of the baby.  However, we contended that the social worker had created a false log of her visits to the home after she learned of the brain injury in December.  Our expert neuroradiologist testified that the baby’s MRI of the brain indicated several recurrent subdural hemorrhages and that there had been bleeding of the brain during the time when the social worker should have discovered the child abuse if she had visited the home.  The baby’s siblings testified no one visited the home in October or November.  They saw their father throw the baby onto the bed more than once, hang the baby on a coat rack and inflict other trauma on him.  We also proved that the social worker never required the alleged father to take a mandatory drug test.

The presumed father was convicted of felony child endangerment and sent to prison.  Alameda County alleged he was fully responsible for the baby’s injuries and that the County was legally immune from liability.  We defeated the Alameda County Summary Judgment motion and the case proceeded to trial where it settled on the first day of trial.  The County paid $2,000,000 which was used to purchase a lifetime monthly annuity that raised the net award to $6,445,000.
The baby was adopted by parents who were trained in the care of disabled children.