A judge Wednesday denied a motion by attorneys for two social workers to dismiss them as defendants in a lawsuit brought by a 16-year-old girl and her 14-year-old sister, who were allegedly abused sexually by one of their foster parents in 2012-14.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu rejected claims by social workers Nora Montesdoeoca and Erica Sanchez that they are immune from any liability in the suit, which was filed in April 2020 and identifies the plaintiffs only as A.R. and C.R.
The complaint was filed on their behalf by their mother, alleging negligence, sexual battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The other defendants are the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Homes of Hope Foster Family Agency in West Covina and the plaintiffs’ former foster parents, Jose and Lorena Medina.
The suit alleges Montesdoeoca and Sanchez negligently failed to supervise, visit and meet with the plaintiffs directly and in the Medina house, neglected to report the likelihood of sexual abuse of which they were notified in August 2013 and failed to remove the children from the home.
In their court papers, defense attorneys argued that government employees are immune from civil liability for acts involving discretionary decisions.
“As a matter of law, placement of foster youths in foster homes, investigations of abuse and supervision of foster youths are discretionary acts subject to government immunity,” the defense lawyers stated.
But in her ruling, the judge said the social workers did not have immunity because they were required by state regulation to have monthly face-to-face contact with the plaintiffs and the foster parents and allegedly failed to do so.
A.R. and C.R. were transferred to the DCFS’ care in October 2012, the suit states. The department placed both with Homes of Hope Foster Family Agency and they were eventually put in the care of the Medinas.
From 2012 through 2014, Jose Medina “sexually abused, assaulted, attacked, molested and raped A.R. and C.R.,” according to the suit, which further alleges Medina abused other children placed in his home before 2012 by the DCFS and Homes of Hope.
Despite having knowledge of such abuses, neither defendant investigated, according to the complaint.
In August 2013, the plaintiffs underwent medical examinations for suspected sexual abuse after A.R. complained of pain while urinating as well as itching in her buttocks, according to the suit. The examining physician then notified the DCFS, Director Philip Browning and Chief Deputy Director Brandon Nichols that the examinations indicated possible child sexual abuse, the suit states.
In May 2019, A.R. reported to her mother that Medina had sexually molested her and C.R., the suit states. The siblings’ mother then contacted her case worker and reported what her children told her, according to the suit.
The alleged abuse was reported to DCFS and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and a criminal complaint was filed against Jose Medina by the District Attorney’s Office, the suit states. Details on the status of the criminal case were not immediately available.
The suit also alleges that due to the small size of the Medina home, Lorena Medina knew or should have known that her husband was abusing the plaintiffs, but failed to report it.
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