Supreme Court: Grandmother can sue over murdered child

By: - November 25, 2021 12:50 am

Courtesy of the Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court said a grandmother can sue Hamilton County for failing to investigate abuse claims before her granddaughter was murdered by the child’s parents.

Court justices said Desena Bradley could continue with her lawsuits against government agencies in Hamilton County, which she said “breached their duty to protect” the child from harm and ended protective supervision of the two-year-old “in bad faith, in a wanton and willful manner, and resulted in the deprivation of the civil rights of the infant,” along with leading to her death, according to the case details.

The court said an exception to government immunity could be appropriate in the case, allowing Bradley to sue the individuals.

Bradley’s granddaughter died in 2014 when she was two years old after a “tragic — and perhaps preventable — incident” in which the child was hospitalized with “significant signs of abuse,” according to court documents.

The supreme court had to decide whether or not Bradley’s case had enough information to be considered by a court, and though her complaint “could perhaps have been more clearly written, we conclude that it did all that was required” for a court to consider whether government officials with the Hamilton County JFS should or should not have legal immunity to a lawsuit.

Bradley will still need to prove her claims and “demonstrate that the caseworkers conduct really was wanton or reckless

A coroner’s report showed more than 100 injuries, some which were “months” old, with a cause of death determined to be “battered child syndrome with acute chronic intercranial hemorrhages and starvation.”

Because the onset of injuries could be found to be months before the girl was admitted to the hospital, Justice Patrick DeWine said caseworkers with the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services could have investigated the care of the child, therefore Bradley could continue with her lawsuit against Hamilton County could continue.

“If (the child’s) injuries at the time of her death were as pervasive and severe as alleged, one can draw an inference that the injuries should have been noticeable to the caseworkers at the home-visit three weeks earlier,” DeWine said. “And if the injuries would have been evident, the most reasonable inferences are either (1) that no home-visit was conducted or (2) that the home-visit was inadequate.”

The court ruled Bradley’s lawsuit will return to the lower court to continue the case.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.