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$2.5M Settlement for Brain-Damaged Child

Richard B. Koskoff

The attorney for a two-year-old girl, who suffered brain damage while staying with her aunt, recovered a $2.5 million settlement from a California County Social Services agency, which failed to remove her from the aunt's home.

Attorney Richard B. Koskof of Booth & Koskoff in Torrance, CA, reached the settlement with the Riverside County, CA, Department of Public Social Services. The parties participated in two mediations and subsequently reached a $2,500,000 settlement just two days prior to trial.

The child suffered right frontal lobe brain damage affecting Mikayla's judgment, safety awareness, impulsivity and executive functioning.

Mikayla O. was removed from the custody of her mother, a drug abuser, when her mother was arrested for felony burglary. Prior to the arrest, Mikayla's mother often abandoned Mikayla for weeks at a time and left her with near strangers while the mother went on drug binges. After the arrest, the County of Riverside Department of Public Social Services placed Mikayla in the home of her maternal aunt Christina Porter.

Extreme behaviors

From the time of placement in the Porter home, Mikayla exhibited extreme emotional and behavioral problems, including crying spells, huge meltdowns, pulling her hair out, spreading feces on herself, throughout the house, on her bedding and toys, and eating feces.

From the time of placement in the Porter home, Mikayla exhibited extreme emotional and behavioral problems, including crying spells, huge meltdowns, pulling her hair out, spreading feces on herself, throughout the house, on her bedding and toys, and eating feces.

Ms. Porter was frustrated and overwhelmed by Mikayla's extreme behaviors. Ms. Porter stated that she was not prepared to deal with these behaviors, and that she wanted Mikayla out of her home. Consequently, Ms. Porter called the County of Riverside hotline and demanded that the County remove Mikayla from her home immediately. Despite Ms. Porter's demands, the County of Riverside failed to take immediate action and failed to remove Mikayla from the Porter home.

Approximately 10 days later, Ms. Porter called 9-1-1 and claimed that Mikayla had fallen from her high chair, struck the back of her head on the kitchen floor, lost consciousness, and then began seizing and vomiting. Mikayla was immediately airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center.

At Loma Linda, CT and MRI scans showed surface-level blood
above the brain, but did not reveal any damage to the brain itself.
However, a subsequent magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
exam suggested diffuse cerebral dysfunction. Furthermore, an
ophthalmologic examination revealed that Mikayla suffered
bilateral retinal hemorrhages. The doctors at Loma Linda
suspected that Mikayla' s head injuries were caused by  abusive
head trauma (i.e. shaken-baby) rather than the fall reported by Ms.
Porter.

Plaintiff alleged that the County of Riverside should have removed
Mikayla from Ms. Porter's care once Ms. Porter indicated that she
no longer wanted Mikayla in her home.

Immune from liability

The County of Riverside contended that, under Government Code section 820.2, it is immune from liability for all placement decisions, including its original placement of Mikayla in the Porter home and its decision not to remove Mikayla from the Porter home. Riverside County further claimed that Mikayla's injuries, if any, were caused by either an accidental fall from the high chair, or by Ms. Porter herself, but not by any act or omission on the part of the County.

Defendant also claimed that any damages Mikayla suffered were the result of her poor background and upbringing, including prior mental and emotional abuse and abandonment suffered at the hands of her biological mother, and were not the result of shaken baby or any head trauma.

The parties participated in two mediations and subsequently
reached a $2,500,000 settlement just two days prior to trial.

Insurance Carrier:

Level 1: County of Riverside retention
Level 2: Insurance pooling arrangement amongst Counties
Level 3: Ironshore (New York company)

Plaintiff's Experts

Susan Culbertson, Child Welfare Services
Sharon K. Kaw Ai, M.D., Life Care Pia
Tamorah Hunt, Economist
Mark Massi, M.D., Pediatric Child Abuse Doctor
Stanford Shu, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist
Jennifer Dunbar, M.D., Pediatric Ophthalmologist
Robert Hamilton, LMFT, Treating Therapist
Kimberly Kupfer-Meares, LMFT, Treating Therapist
Richard Andersen, M.S., C.V.E., C.R.C., C.D.M.S, Vocation
Rehabilitation
Scott Greene, Computer, Technology, And Digital Forensics Professional
Srinivasa A. Tmakur, IT Specialist

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