A San Bernardino County jury has awarded $113.4 million to a 10-year-old boy and his mother, primarily blaming Children and Family Services for a brutal beating that left the boy with severe brain damage and rendered him a quadriplegic.
The July 3 verdict followed a three-week trial in Superior Court that centered on the role of a social worker in not protecting Noah Reed from serious abuse in the Yucca Valley home where he lived with his father and his fathers girlfriend.
The girlfriend, Hannah Thompson, was convicted of assault on a child in connection with the May 18, 2014, beating and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
“We are hearing that it is the largest pain and suffering (jury) award ever given to a single plaintiff in the state of California,” said Matthew Whibley, an attorney for Noah and his mother, Laurell Reed.
Jurors heard evidence that county social worker Karen Perry failed to properly investigate and follow up on allegations of child abuse reported by a sheriffs deputy and Thompsons own mother. Instead, Perry referred Thompson and Noahs father, Christopher Reed, to various county services and closed the case, Whibley said.
“Instead of opening a case plan, (Perry) ended the investigation and then, six months later, Noah Reed was catastrophically injured by Hannah Thompson, which resulted in permanent brain damage,” Whibley said.
County spokesman David Wert said the county is considering its options, including an appeal of the verdict.
“It is understandable that a jury would be outraged when a child is harmed. The county is outraged, too. But in this case, the jurys outrage was misplaced,” Wert said in an email.
The jury found that Perry failed to make reasonable efforts to perform her duties as required by the state Child Welfare Services Manual of Policies and Procedures.
Noah and his mother were awarded $100 million for past and future pain and suffering, $9.9 million for future medical expenses, $2.9 million for loss of future earnings, and $602,625.66 for past medical expenses, according to the jurys verdict form.
Jurors found the Department of Children and Family Services 85% responsible for the harm done to Noah, Thompson 5% responsible, and Reed 10%, according to the verdict form.
Hospitalized with head trauma[hhmc]
Noah was 5 years old when he was admitted to Loma Linda University Medical Center with severe head trauma. Thompson, his primary caretaker at the time, called 911 that day to report Noah had fallen off a stool at home and injured his head.
The boy had bruising all over his body and was severely malnourished when admitted into the hospital, Whibley said. He also suffered permanent ocular nerve injury, which means he cannot see out of his right eye, the attorney said.
A criminal investigation subsequently determined Thompson had physically abused Noah for more than a year and the boys father failed to intervene, Whibley said.
Thompson, then 21, and Reed, who according to Whibley was an air traffic controller at the Twentynine Palms Marine base at the time, were arrested and charged with assault on a child becoming comatose and child abuse, respectively. Both were convicted.
Thompson, who began dating Reed in early 2013, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 2016. Reed entered a plea to misdemeanor child abuse and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, a one-year batterer intervention program and three years probation. He successfully completed the terms of his probation and filed a motion to dismiss the case, which a judge granted in June, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Ron Webster said.
Abuse not investigated[hhmc]
Noah, who now lives in upstate New York with his mother and maternal grandparents, has been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia, a condition that causes the muscles to be in a constant state of tension, causing chronic pain, Whibley said.
The boys abuse could have been prevented, Whibley said, had Perry initiated a proper investigation into the allegations against Thompson. “Social workers,” he said, “received multiple claims that Hannah Thompson was severely abusing Noah Reed.”
“He is permanently in a wheelchair. He can speak very poorly. He has permanent cognitive disabilities. Hes also permanently incontinent and needs 24-7 care for the rest of his life,” Whibley said.
Noah still experiences human emotions such as love, anger and frustration, and is fully aware of his injuries, the lawyer said.
“He wants to play, he wants to be a child, but he cannot because he lacks the ability to speak, to think, and to walk like a regular boy, but he still has the desire to do so,” Whibley said.
What perplexes Whibley is that Perry herself determined Noah was at risk for abuse and that Thompson was mentally ill, but Read More – Source