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Wrongful death claim targets North Carolina social services department

Two attorneys have filed a wrongful death complaint in response to the death of 15-month-old girl, naming the North Carolina county's Department of Social Services as a defendant. The claim accuses social workers employed by the agency for failing to take action despite being warned that the young girl was being abused by her great aunt.

The plaintiffs, who filed the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased child's estate, contend that social workers received three reports of abuse involving the girl's caretaker. While the workers removed another child from the woman's care, the victim remained. She died several months later. The complaint argues that the pain and suffering by the victim before death "would have been apparent to any department of social services which was properly discharging its legal duties and obligations." The complaint, which was filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, seeks unspecified damages.

The lawyers that filed the claim say they want North Carolina to enact policies that would better prevent such deaths. "I am deeply concerned that the state will not take the appropriate interest and change policies and laws . . . that would change the way departments across the state conduct investigations and implement safety protocols that save young children's lives," explained one of the plaintiffs.

Two social workers with the North Carolina agency face charges for obstruction of justice and falsifying records. One of the workers has also been charged with forgery for allegedly making it appear as though they had performed a full investigation into the reported abuse. The victim's caretaker was charged with second-degree murder following the death and is currently in jail awaiting trial.

Source: The Republic, "Lawyers file wrongful death claim with NC Industrial Commission over Swain County toddler," Tom Breen, Feb. 16, 2012

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