Bringing a sudden end to an emotionally charged trial, Miami personal injury lawyers at Grossman Roth, P.A., and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office have agreed on a $1.575 million settlement for 5-year-old Jace Manning, ensuring the future care of the brain-damaged boy.
Jace suffered severe head trauma—including a fractured skull—in February 2006, after allegations of abuse. The injuries left the boy with cerebral palsy, a severe limp, speech difficulties, and developmental delays. The harm Jace suffered, says Grossman Roth partner Gary M. Cohen, will mean that he will always lag intellectually behind his peers, a gap that will widen as he grows older.
Jace’s injuries were particularly troubling because they followed fears that he was being abused—and his grandmother’s pleas for intervention. At trial, Grossman Roth child safety lawyers—alleged that the investigation sparked by the grandmother’s worries was grossly mishandled by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
Just two months before his head injury, Jace had been hospitalized exhibiting lethargy and unexplained bruising. His grandmother, Denise Manning, contacted county officials for help, concerned that the boy was being abused, and she asked that he be removed from the Coral Springs apartment he shared with his mother and her boyfriend. Jace’s child safety lawyers told the jury that although the medical director of Broward County’s Child Protection Team found evidence of abuse, the child was allowed to remain in the home.
“It is our belief that social services for this child failed miserably from beginning to end,” says Cohen. “We are happy the Broward Sheriff’s Office finally did the right thing for this child. We’re sorry it took this many years to do it.”
Jace’s lawyers had filed suit in June 2008 against 10 defendants, including doctors, hospitals, the Florida Department of Health, and the state’s Department of Children and Families. Eight of the defendants ultimately settled, with only the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward County taking the case to trial, which began in the third week of January 2011.
Together, the settlements total a little under $3 million, according to Cohen. No one was ever criminally charged with hurting Jace, as the Broward State Attorney’s Office concluded that it couldn’t prove who injured the boy.
In his opening statement to the jury, Cohen pointed to repeated problems with the county’s handling of the abuse allegations. The Grossman Roth lawyer argued that the child protection investigator for the Broward Sheriff’s Office failed to follow protocol and do basic follow-up work after the boy’s initial hospitalization in December 2005.
Cohen also contended that the investigator, Ramraji “Sherry” Beharry, was dismissive of Jace’s grandmother, chalking up her complaint to ill feelings between her and the boy’s mother.
Finally, Cohen said, there was the investigator’s determination that the boy was at “low risk” for abuse—an assessment made even though the medical director of the county’s Child Protection Team had already concluded that Jace had been abused and was at high risk for further abuse.
Two weeks after the investigator closed her file on the infant, Jace was rushed to the hospital with seizures. X-rays revealed not only a skull fracture but evidence of previous head injuries.
Jace, who will require significant on-going care, now lives with his grandmother, who has legally adopted him. While the settlement achieved by the Grossman Roth child safety lawyers will help ensure that Jace gets the care he needs, the future he could have had—and would have had if those entrusted with protecting him had not failed in that duty—will forever be denied him.