Lawsuit against Hamilton County caseworkers in 2-year-old’s murder can proceed: Supreme Court
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A lawsuit against Hamilton County caseworkers filed by the grandmother of a toddler murdered by her parents can proceed, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
In a unanimous decision, the state’s top court reversed the ruling of the First District Court of Appeals that affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of Desena Bradley’s case.
The First District ruled she had not alleged sufficient facts to show the caseworkers’ conduct was so deficient as to strip them of the immunity from civil lawsuits provided to Ohio government employees.
Two-year-old Glenara Bates died in March 2015.
Authorities have said Glenara was beaten and had bite and belt marks when her parents took her to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Both of her parents, Glen Bates and Andrea Bradley, were convicted of her murder.
At her father’s trial, Glenara’s 10-year-old sister testified he held the toddler by the legs and swung her at the wall the night before her death.
The pathologist said Glenara had bruises, scars, burns, open sores and missing teeth when her mother took her to the hospital.
She weighed only 13 pounds when she died.
Bradley, Glenara’s maternal grandmother, sued Hamilton County, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, and the individual Job and Family Services caseworkers involved in Bates’ case.
The Court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings but cautioned that nothing in the decision should be read to suggest how the case should be decided on remand.
“In order to prevail, Bradley will still need to prove her claims and demonstrate that the caseworkers’ conduct really was wanton or reckless,” the opinion stated.
The suit alleges caseworkers ignored her daughter’s history of abusing her children, failed to properly investigate a report of abuse of her granddaughter from doctors and staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and overlooked what should have been clear signs of abuse during a home visit less than a month before the child’s death.
The lawsuit “essentially alleges that the caseworkers disregarded or were indifferent to a known or obvious risk” of harm to the child that was unreasonable under the circumstances, the Court stated.
While Bradley’s complaint could have been more clearly written, “it did all that was required at the pleading stage by putting the caseworkers on notice” that their actions might meet the exception that strips their immunity, justices determined.
When the child was taken to the hospital in December 2014, doctors detected significant signs of abuse and severe undernourishment, among a host of other problems.
The doctors called the caseworkers to the hospital to meet with the parents.
The complaint alleges that the caseworkers made a follow-up visit to the child’s home in early March 2015 and found everything was fine and the girl was healthy and happy.
The toddler was dead three weeks later.
The coroner’s report identified more than 100 injuries, some of which were “months” old.
If the child’s injuries were as pervasive and severe as alleged, then one can infer that the caseworkers could have detected the injuries during the home visit, the concurrence stated.
“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,” Justice Pat DeWine wrote.
Bradley might be able to establish that the caseworkers were reckless in failing to adequately investigate the situation once the child was discharged from the hospital, court records show, but that ultimately will be up to the court.
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