OAKLAND — Without a definitive ruling, a federal judge Tuesday said that a 7-year-old boy’s lawsuit alleging Alameda County social workers failed to protect his younger sister when she died after overdosing on methamphetamine twice while in foster care can move forward.
The county had filed a motion in January arguing that the deceased toddler’s brother Jeremyah had no standing to sue them and Alameda County Child Protective Services should be dropped from the lawsuit. The county is arguing a brother cannot sue for the wrongful death of a sibling, in this case his sister. However, Jeremyah’s attorney, Darren Kessler, is arguing his 7-year-old client’s constitutional rights were violated and he can sue.
“I doubt this motion to dismiss is going to succeed at least by some measure so don’t stand on your heels,” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers told the county attorney in an Oakland federal courtroom.
Jeremyah is the older brother of Mariah Mustafa, who died in 2015 shortly after being moved to a Stockton foster home. Officials failed to remove Mariah or Jeremyah after the girl’s first overdose.
“The county had 10 days to investigate. They didn’t …. That put Jeremyah in danger,” attorney Liza de Vries, Kessler’s co-counsel, told the judge.
The judge set a trial date of April 29, 2019.
“The circumstances leading to this case are tragic,” the judge said. “There’s no other way to describe how horrible this could be but what I need to figure out is if you have a constitutional claim.”
The county’s attorney, Rebecca Widen, declined to comment after the hearing. Attorneys for Mariah and Jeremyah’s foster mother Maria Moore and the placement agency Triad Family Services were also in attendance.
Jeremyah, through his guardian, filed a federal lawsuit in October against Alameda County, social workers Diane Davis Maas and Sue May, Moore and Triad.
In a motion filed Jan. 9, Widen argued Mariah’s brother lacks standing to sue the county and that the county is protected from civil liability because of state legislation that provides broad immunities to local governments.
Mariah’s story was covered Sunday in a Bay Area News Group investigative report.
Social workers pulled the toddler and her older brother from their Oakland home on Sept. 30, 2015, and the next day Moore picked them up and became their foster parent, along with her boyfriend Ernest Stevens III, who was approved as a caregiver. Moore would later tell investigators she was reluctant to take Mariah because she …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News