Wednesday, April 30, 2003
C.A. Again Reinstates Suit by Children Claiming Long-Term Abuse by Foster Parent
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A lawsuit by six children who claim they were routinely abused in the home of a foster mother who was a friend of the former head of the county Department of Children and Family Services is timely, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. Three upheld a ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Hess and denied a writ of mandate to Sandra Rodriguez. The justices held that the plaintiffs’ claims were not barred by a statute requiring that claims against foster parents be presented to the Foster Family Home and Small Family Home Insurance Fund within one year of accrual.
Presentation of a timely claim setting forth the conduct which is the basis of the suit is a prerequisite to litigation, according to the Health and Safety Code.
Because the plaintiffs were minors when the alleged injuries occurred, Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein reasoned, their causes of action accrued when they turned 18. Since all presented claims before their 19th birthdays, the claims were timely, Klein wrote, rejecting the contention that the claims accrued when dependency jurisdiction terminated.
It was the second time justices held that the plaintiffs’ claims in the case were not time-barred.
The court previously ruled, in a case dealing with three of the six plaintiffs whose claims were ruled on yesterday, that the time in which a dependent child may bring a tort claim against a public entity is tolled when there is no parent or guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests, even if counsel has been appointed by the court.
The plaintiffs are suing Rodriguez and Los Angeles County, claiming that they were beaten, inadequately fed, and subjected to roach-infested living conditions in the Rodriguez home and that the county was negligent in failing to adequately monitor the residence.
Rodriguez became the subject of a 10-month investigation—dealing with over 20 children—which led to her being removed as a foster parent.
Advocates claimed that Rodriguez was able to maintain her status as a foster parent, despite concerns—at least 85 foster children have presented, or attempted to present, claims similar to those made by the plaintiffs in the case ruled on yesterday—because of her friendship with former DCFS head Peter Digre.
The case is Rodriguez v. Superior Court (Crystal B.), B157944.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company