In a rare move, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge overturned a record jury award of $ 113.4 million to a 10-year-old boy who suffered severe brain damage and was made quadriplegic from the beatings of his father’s girlfriend.
Judge Bryan Foster ruled on October 30 that county social worker Karen Perry was “in no way responsible” for the injuries inflicted on Noah Reed, and thus overturned the jury’s decision to hold the county financially responsible for the injuries. injuries that changed the boy’s life. Noah was 5 years old at the time of the abuse at his Yucca Valley home in 2014.
Foster concluded that the “evidence establishes that there was full compliance with all mandatory obligations required by the county”.
“There is no substantial evidence to support the jury’s finding of alleged violation of mandatory duties,” Foster said in a press release.
Perry worked as a county social worker from February 18, 1994 until November 11, 2017. She is no longer employed by the county, spokesman David Wert said.
The dismayed family lawyer
Foster’s decision left attorney Matthew Whibley, who represented Noah and his mother, Laurell Reed, stunned.
“This decision is totally inconsistent with the decisions he made during the trial, and it makes absolutely no sense to any of us,” Whibley said in a telephone interview Tuesday. He said he plans to appeal Foster’s decision.
During the trial, Whibley said, Foster indicated that there was evidence to suggest Perry had violated her mandatory duty to report abuse, and that it was for the jury to decide whether, in fact, she did. did.
According to Whibley, the judge also said that there was evidence to suggest Perry had failed in his obligations to open a business plan and follow up with the family. Foster left it up to the jury to decide whether, in fact, she did.
“The transcripts will show that (Foster) has continuously denied the county’s attempt to get rid of the case. He kept saying it was up to the jury to decide, ”Whibley said. “Nothing abnormal happened during the trial. It was a clean and normal trial. (Foster) had three or four chances before this decision to dismiss this case. “
Jurors heard testimony that Perry had failed to properly investigate and follow up on allegations of child abuse reported by a Sheriff’s Deputy and the mother of Hannah Thompson, the woman who beat Noah in the coma, leaving him quadriplegic and blind in his right eye.
Social worker made referrals
Instead, Perry referred Thompson and Noah’s father, Christopher Reed, to various county departments and closed the case. Jurors found that Perry had not made reasonable efforts to carry out his duties, as required by the state’s child welfare services policies and procedures manual.
Thompson was convicted of child abuse in 2013 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Reed pleaded guilty to an offense of child abuse and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, a one-year abuser intervention program, and three years probation.
Noah and his mother, who now live in upstate New York, received $ 100 million for past and future pain and suffering, $ 9.9 million for future medical expenses, $ 2.9 million dollars for lost future income and $ 602,625 for past medical expenses.
Jurors found the county child and family services department 85% responsible for the harm done to Noah, Thompson 5% and Reed 10%.
Foster, however, determined on October 30 that sheriff’s deputies and county social workers found no evidence of abuse or neglect when they responded to the Reed Residence in September and October 2013, and in accordance with the law, the county closed the case.
“Nothing was heard until May 2014, when Thompson severely beat Noah,” according to the county press release.
Boy abused for over a year
Noah had bruises all over his body and was severely malnourished when he was admitted to the hospital. A criminal investigation later determined that Thompson had physically assaulted Noah for over a year and the boy’s father did not intervene, Whibley said.
“Obviously the jury was outraged at what had happened to Noah, as was the county, and mistakenly directed that outrage to the county,” spokesman Wert said in the press release. “The judge agreed that the jury’s decision was wrong.”
Whibley said Foster was the one who drafted the jury verdict form and jury instructions and has repeatedly refused to dismiss the case, believing it to be valid and now for the jury to decide.
“Then he changes his tone completely. He’s a completely different judge. It just doesn’t make sense, ”Whibley said. “The fight is not over. Someday we’ll get justice, one way or another, for Noah Reed.