VISALIA, Calif. (AP) — Central California's Tulare County will pay $32 million to settle a lawsuit alleging its child welfare agency failed to respond to reports of abuse involving an infant boy who was hospitalized for malnutrition and suffered brain damage, plaintiffs' attorneys said Monday.
Under the terms of the settlement, the county must also implement policies and computer software that will enable Child Welfare Services to better track and follow up on allegations of child abuse, according to a statement by the law firm Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi.
The deal was announced just weeks before trial was scheduled in the civil case filed last February on behalf of a child named in court papers as “J.G.”
Tulare County said in a statement Tuesday that the agreement was reached through voluntary mediation.
“The County is sorry for what J.G. has experienced. It is a senseless tragedy that will affect J.G. for the remainder of his life and he will remain in our thoughts. The amount of the settlement approved by the Court is $32 million and will be used for J.G.’s necessary lifelong health and wellness care. The County of Tulare acted and settled in the best interests of everyone involved,” the statement said.
The lawsuit alleged Child Welfare Services failed to investigate multiple reports starting in March 2020 claiming that J.G. suffered neglect and abuse while in the custody of his biological parents.
At 10 months old, the boy was hospitalized and suffered “profound and permanent brain damage due to severe malnutrition," according to the court filing.
The lawsuit accused the county, the child welfare agency and its employees of negligence. It sought unspecified monetary damages for “physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering.”