Tuesday, September 21, 2010

California Court of Appeal Affirms Mom's $4.9 Million Award Against Social Services Agency

California Court of Appeal Affirms Mom's $4.9 Million Award Against Social Services Agency

RE: Fogarty-Hardwick v. County of Orange, et al. Superior Court of California, County of Orange Case No. 01CC02379 (Trial before Hon. Ronald L. Bauer, Dept. CX103) In 2007 an Orange County jury returned a $4.9 million verdict in favor of Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick finding that county social workers had lied to the juvenile court in order to cause the removal of Fogarty-Hardwick's young children - 6 and 9 years old at the time. In a unanimous scathing opinion issued Monday, June 14, 2010, Division Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal noted that the evidence presented at trial led both the judge and jury to conclude that "something seriously wrong had been done to Fogarty-Hardwick" and that the conduct of the social workers was not "an isolated incident." The Court of Appeal went on to chastise the County saying "This conclusion is something that should be taken very seriously.

Quote startIn this case, the jury specifically concluded that Vreeken and Dwojak lied, falsified evidence, and suppressed exculpatory evidence...There was no error in rejecting qualified immunity in this case.Quote end

What? Wait.  Now I thought County Social Workers had discretionary immunity.
 

A California Appellate Court found this week against Orange County and its Social Services Agency, and Affirmed what is called a “Substantial” damages award arising from a Civil Rights Verdict obtained in May 2007.

After in depth review of extensive briefs and a complex record, Division Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal for the State of California issues its opinion today affirming an Orange County jury’s verdict awarding Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick approximately $4.9 million against the County of Orange, and two of its social workers.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeal voiced its concerns over what happened to Ms. Fogarty-Hardwick: “Stated plainly, the outcome of this case cannot be dismissed as merely the unfortunate product of a runaway jury. The evidence adduced at trial obviously caused both the jury and the judge to conclude not only that something seriously wrong was done to Fogarty-Hardwick in this case, but also that the wrongful conduct was not an isolated incident. That conclusion is something the County should be taking very seriously.”
The underlying case was filed by Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick against the County of Orange in February 2001. The suit alleged that Orange County, social worker Marcia Vreeken and her supervisor Helen Dwojak violated Ms. Fogarty-Hardwick’s constitutional rights to raise and associate with her children free from governmental interference.
On March 23,2007 an Orange County Jury found against Orange County, social worker Marcia Vreeken, and social worker supervisor Helen Dwojak and awarded monetary damages of $4.9 million. A third social worker, Elaine Wilkins was found not liable.
Lead attorney Shawn A. McMillan states: “Ms. Fogarty is very pleased with the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the verdict. This case encompasses extremely important issues for the people of Orange County, and the People of the State of California. Allegations of social worker misconduct of the type proven in this case is "ubiquitous" as admitted in an Amicus Brief filed by the California Association of Counties. Hopefully, the 52 counties that belong to the association will take note of the outcome of this case and promulgate policies to prevent their social workers from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.”
San Diego Lawyer Shawn A. McMillan, of the Law Offices of Shawn A. McMillan, was lead trial counsel in the case, and the lead appellate attorney. Attorney Sondra Sutherland was co-counsel at trial and assisted on the appeal.
RE: Fogarty-Hardwick v. County of Orange, et al.
, County of Orange
Case No. 01CC02379 (Trial before Hon. Ronald L. Bauer, Dept. CX103)

Fogarty-Hardwick v. County of Orange, et al. Superior Court of California, County of Orange Case No. 01CC02...