Woman stripped of son’s custody wins $3 million from LA County
LOS ANGELES — A woman stripped of the custody of her son amid allegedly false accusations of neglect by children’s social workers who worked for Los Angeles County was denied punitive damages today, but will still receive more then $3 million in compensatory damages.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about an hour before deciding against assessing punitive damages against social workers Kimberly Rogers and Susan Pender in a lawsuit filed by Rafaelina Duval.
The same panel on Thursday awarded Duval $2.94 million, plus another $165,000 after finding in a separate verdict that she was the victim of discrimination.
Duval alleged that her child, identified in her court papers only as R.D., was taken from her without a warrant in 2010, even though no emergency existed. The jury also found that social workers Pender and Rogers acted with malice toward Duval, triggering the second phase to determine whether either of them should have to pay punitive damages.
The jury found that the county Department of Children and Family Services had “an official custom and/or practice of seizing children from their parents without a warrant” and failed “to enact an official policy or procedure when it should have done so.”
Asked after the verdicts whether she was pleased with the outcome of the case, Duval replied, “Yes and no. Yes, because they have been held accountable, but no, because I still don’t have custody of my child.”
Duval, 41, said she will continue to fight to bring her son home and to advocate for changes in the DCFS so the same thing does not happen to others in her situation.
Attorney Shawn McMillan, on behalf of Duval, told jurors that his client begged the social workers not to take her child, but her plea “fell on deaf ears.”