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Archive for the ‘Damage Claims’ Category

Florida Claims Bills Seek to Help Abused Children Who Wait Years for Damage Awards

Children across Florida who have suffered rape, child sexual abuse, child abuse, and other personal injury often wait years to receive damage awarded by the court or juries – if they ever receive the money at all. Claims bills now before the Florida Legislature could make money available to help these victims receive the money they desperately need.

In one example, a Wellington boy, 9, was sexually assaulted by a foster child his parents had agreed to raise, not knowing the boy had suffered sexual abuse and had become a child-on-child predator. A Palm Beach County jury in 2013 found that the Florida Department of Children and Families was negligent and awarded the boy $5 million for damages and what could be a lifetime of treatment and therapy.

He’s yet to receive any money. “He’s living a life of paralysis,” said Howard Talenfeld, the attorney representing the now 22-year-old man.


New Times: Boy Sues Community Firms, State Agency for Failing to Vet Foster Parent

For want of a criminal and personal background check, a young child was allegedly sexually abused by a foster parent after being placed in the man’s care by contracted providers, welfare providers Kids in Distress Inc. and ChildNet Inc. The two companies were hired by the Florida Department of Children and Families to vet foster parents and place children. Instead, all three – as well as the foster parent, whom the child claims sexually abused him.

“According to the lawsuit, the child — identified only as R.S. — claims 56-year-old John Michael McGuigan of Broward County sexually abused him while the child was under his care. But the lawsuit says there were multiple glaring red flags the agencies failed to see when McGuigan applied to become a Florida foster parent in 2008,” writes Broward New Times.


Florida Department of Children and Families Sued for Adopted Child’s Life of Abuse

September 16th, 2014   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

The warning signs of child abuse, neglect and eventually possible wrongful death were etched across little J.B.’s reportedly horrible life as a child adopted by Carmen and Jorge Barahona. J.B. always was close at hand as Nubia Barahona, 10, and her twin brother, Victor, were allegedly physically abused, starved and mistreated. Teachers said Nubia Barahona would arrive at school unkempt and withdrawn and she would hoard or steal food. Eventually, Nubia was found dead in Jorge Barahona’s truck, while Victor suffered serious injury. Jorge Barahona is facing trial for trying to kill Victor; Carmen stands trial for the first degree murder of Nubia.

Now, it’s J.B.’s turn. The Miami-Dade County child who suffered years of abuse by her adoptive parents filed a lawsuit this week against the Florida Department of Children and Families and three of its employees.

According to the complaint, “J.B” was physically, sexually and emotionally abused by the Barahonas starting in 1999, when she was placed in their care by the Florida Department of Children and Families. The abuse lasted until she finally was removed in 2011 upon Nubia Barahona’s death.


Palm Beach Post Editorial: Wellington Family’s Horror Latest Reason to Reform System for Paying Victims of Government Negligence

October 30th, 2013   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

In this Palm Beach Post editorial, staff editorial writer Rhoda Swan argues that it’s long-past time that Florida legislators change their stance and process regarding claims bills necessary to pay multi-million dollar damage awards against state agencies like the Florida Department of Children and Families. As advocates have long said, reform the system, and pay the damage awards.

As Swan wrote, “A Wellington family awarded $5 million for the sexual abuse perpetrated on their son by a foster child must get in line with at least 25 other victims of government negligence in Florida.

“The judgment against the Department of Children and Families will become another ‘claims bill,’ which the Legislature must approve before the family is paid. Legislators passed no claims bill last session, because Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, wants to reform the system first.

“…Attorney Howard Talenfeld will lobby legislators to pay [the family]. Sen. Gaetz dislikes the role lobbyists play, but the system is the problem. Legislators should remove the politics by increasing what governments can pay without legislative approval. Delayed reform means delayed justice.”

Read the entire column here.

Will $5 Million Verdict in Foster Child-On-Child Sexual Abuse Case Help Florida DCF, Community-Based Providers Learn Their Lesson?

October 28th, 2013   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

When a six-member jury decided that the sexual assault of one child by a foster child who was known to be a juvenile sex offender by the Florida Department of Children and Families and its community-based care providers could have been avoided and should have consequences, they were reiterating what child advocates have said all along. Their $5 million verdict against Florida DCF only drove home the point even more forcefully.

Was history repeating itself in the Palm Beach County courtroom, where testimony of the sexual abuse and humiliation suffered by the victim brought tears to the plaintiff’s attorney and jurors alike?

DCF and community-based care providers failed to warn the foster family of the 10-year-old foster child’s own history of violent sexual abuse. Then, after the abuse occurred, they tried to deflect blame and say the foster parents should have known. Child advocate attorney Howard Talenfeld was co-counsel on the case. Read the newspaper account here.


Emotional Tale of Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse Blames Florida Department of Children and Families, Community Based Care Provider

October 17th, 2013   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

Attorneys for a man who as a child suffered sexual abuse by a foster child taken into his family home had a Palm Beach County courtroom in tears – and foster child advocates again wondering when the Florida Department of Children and Families and its community-based care providers ever would learn the lessons of the past.

The family was not told by DCF of the sexual abuse the foster child had suffered from less than two years of age – abuse that transformed him into a sexual predator. Instead, he was placed with the family.

As jurors heard of childhood games gone horribly wrong, “… [a]ttorneys representing DCF and Camelot [community care] have countered that the couple knew enough about [the foster child’s] background to understand the potential risk he posed to [their son].”

The foster child was known to be a juvenile sex offender. Shame on DCF for not warning another family of the full and complete history of a foster child.  Several years ago, DCF paid $10 million in damages under very similar circumstances.

When will DCF learn the lessons of the past?

‘High-Risk’ Placement Leaves Child Sexually Abused, Florida DCF On Trial

October 2nd, 2013   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

The Florida Department of Children and Families and a community-based care provider are at the center of a civil lawsuit seeking damages filed in Palm Beach County by a foster family whose foster child was a known sexual abuser who abused their natural son.

The foster child suffered a past that left him “so horribly damaged” – a past the two social service agencies should have warned them of, according to their complaint and news reports.

The family is seeking unspecified damages against Florida DCF and Camelot Community Care, a nonprofit child welfare group hired by DCF to oversee the foster child’s case. Instead, the agencies cast blame upon the foster family.

To attorneys, though, the case is clear. DCF made a high-risk placement without informing the plaintiffs that the foster child was sexually aggressive. DCF permitted the foster child to share a bedroom with an 8-year old boy and violated its own procedures designed to protect against sexual abuse,” Howard Talenfeld, co-counsel for the family, said later. “Camelot Community Care, DCF’s expert hired to treat this child, assess risk and provide therapy, violated the same procedures and failed to take the necessary actions that would have protected both children.”

The trial is expected to last four weeks.

Florida Child Advocate Attorneys’ $2.2 million Settlement vs ChildNet, DCF Profiled in Local Media

A $2.2 million settlement negotiated by attorneys for two young girls who were repeatedly sexually abused by their mother, even after experts warned and judges admonished community based care provider ChildNet Inc., and the Florida Department of Children and Families, recently was profiled in South Florida publication, Daily Business Review.

As part of the settlement, ChildNet will pay its maximum policy limit of $2 million; DCF, which contracted ChildNet for services, will pay its statutory cap of $200,000. Read the story here.

According to news releases, ChildNet and DCF refuse to accept any responsibility for their repeated and gross negligence, regardless of the settlement, said Joel Fass, a partner with Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb P.A., who along with Howard Talenfeld and Stacie Schmerling were the plaintiffs’ counsel.


Op-Ed: Disability Rights: More Must Be Done for At-Risk Children and Their Parents

A letter by Florida child advocacy attorney Howard Talenfeld was published today in the Daily Business Review’s Practice Focus section. Entitled, “Disability Rights: More Must Be Done for At-Risk Children and Their Parents,” the letter noted how advocates can only hope that state leaders learn that cutting budgets at the expense of at-risk children rarely delivers the result one expects – and it could lend to a class action that is certified and a federal court injunction.

Talenfeld, of Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb, wrote that, “To any Florida attorney who fights to protect the rights of and prevent damages to severely disabled children, the past several years have been tough to watch.

“Children with highly complex medical conditions and who had been cared for by their parents or guardians have been wrongly denied skilled, private duty nursing hours to assist in the care. Left little choice, some parents were forced to send the children to institutions, including nursing homes.

“Many children suffered. A few died.”

Read Talenfeld’s entire letter here.

Plaintiffs Awarded $9.7 million in New York City Case of Foster Child Fraud, Physical Abuse

December 7th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

In a 15-year-old court case against a “colossal breakdown” of New York City’s foster care system, damages were awarded to 10 disabled people whom their plaintiff attorney said were fraudulently adopted and subsequently subjected to years of horrible child abuse and physical abuse. The $9.7 million award settlement for damage claims in the case of foster parent Judith Leekin, who moved to Florida and now at 67 is in prison for a fraud conviction, comes at “a crucial time” for the plaintiffs, said plaintiff attorney and Florida child advocacy lawyer Howard M. Talenfeld, as quoted in the New York Times. The former foster children now are mostly in their 20s. Some are homeless. All have special needs, from physical and developmental disabilities, to retardation and autism. Because of the precariousness of the plaintiffs’ situation, Talenfeld told the paper, trusts or structured settlements will be used to ensure they “will have resources to protect them in the future.”

City officials admitted no fault in the settlement. The city was the first of four defendants in the case. Cases against three private adoption agencies that had contracts with the city are pending. In all, Ms. Leekin collected $1.68 million in foster child subsidies by using aliases to adopt the children. Instead of providing them care, she restrained them with plastic ties and handcuffs, beat them with sticks and hangers – and personally lived a lavish lifestyle.

Read the entire story here.

Children’s Rights Attorney: Child’s Death in Nursing Home a Civil Damages Case; Feds Investigating

November 11th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

The death of Marie Freyre – a 14-year-old child with cerebral palsy and prone to seizures – is a sad example of a preventable wrongful death that attorneys believe could result in a civil damages case and damage claims. One newspaper called her example a “bitter reminder of a dog fight” being waged between federal civil rights lawyers and the state health administration officials who attorneys and advocates accuse of warehousing sick and disabled children in adult nursing homes.

The agencies responsibility for cutting private duty nurses to Marie and others like her must be held accountable civil damages cases.

“The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights division has threatened to sue the state if it does not take steps to care for sick children outside of large institutions,” the Miami Herald wrote.

“Records obtained by The Miami Herald from the state agency that has defended the practice of housing children in nursing homes, as well as records from other agencies and advocacy groups, show the children in such facilities often receive little education, are provided few activities and can suffer grievous neglect,” the paper reported. “Two of the six nursing homes that house children are on the state’s ‘watch list’ of deficient facilities; one is on both the state list and a federal “special focus” list of marginal homes.”

Read the entire story here.

Boy Scouts of America ‘Perversion Files’ Show Depth of Sexual Abuse, Personal Injury Group’s Personnel Perpetrated on Kids

The similarities between the Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Church and the coaching staff and administration at Penn State University are chilling – and reprehensible. All three had pedophiles in their midst, perpetrating unspeakable sexual assault, personal injury, and pain and suffering on child victims and youths in their care.

And to avoid damage claims, all three worked diligently to hide the sexual assault, personal injury, and pain and suffering of child victims from parents, outsiders and authorities.

As child advocates and child care attorneys now learn of the more than 14,500 pages of previously confidential documents released by the Boy Scouts of America regarding child sexual abuse, observers and authorities are left to wonder how this could happen so deeply in the organization – and for so long.