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Civil Rights Violations 42 USC § 1983 Claims on Behalf of Children


Child welfare departments and agencies have escaped liability for egregious acts of abuse by relying upon sovereign immunity limits that discourage most attorneys from bringing these claims. For more than two decades, attorneys for Justice for Kids have utilized creative approaches to avoid these limitations through the federal civil rights act, 42 USC § 1983.

  • Firm Sues Florida Dept. of Children & Families, Settles Negligence Case for $14.26 Million. Child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld filed a civil rights complaint in federal court on behalf of 19 children against nine Florida Department of Children and Families employees who were responsible for the children’s adoption and/or investigations of the abuse allegations. The children were allowed to be adopted and lived in various locations with her between Orlando and Gainesville, FL even though there had been a prior verified abuse report against the mother. The children were victims of bizarre punishments and beatings throughout their childhood. The State of Florida settled all of the Plaintiffs’ claims, including a negligence claim in Alachua County against DCF, for a total of $14.26 million. Read the case here
  • Civil Rights Win Brings Sexually Assaulted & Neglected Siblings $5 Million Settlement. Child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld prevailed in this precedent-setting federal civil rights claim brought by six siblings (collectively called “John Roes” to protect the minors’ identities) who were egregiously physically, sexually, and emotionally abused and neglected in a foster/adoptive home in Broward County, FL.
  • Case Against Police Officer Alleging Excessive Force and Violation of Civil Rights. A Miami child who was arrested and suffered permanent injury to his knee from a Miami-Dade Police officer filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force and a violation of his civil rights through the use of excessive force pursuant to 42 USC § 1983. After the federal judge determined that the city’s use of force regulation was unconstitutionally applied, the jury awarded a substantial judgment and the judge awarded attorneys’ fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
  • Settlement for Special Needs Child as a Result of Civil Rights Violations. Justice for Kids attorneys secured a $1.9 million settlement on behalf of a special needs child as a result of civil rights violations from DCF and employees as a result of his sexual abuse and the violation of his civil rights. Fortunately, the settlement was finalized just before his adoptive father passed away and placed in a special needs trusts to provide help to the child.
  • Abused Florida Foster Children Win $2.9 Million in Landmark Civil Rights Decision. H.A.L v. Foltz, 551 F.3d 1227 (11th Cir. 2008) Justice for Kids attorney Howard Talenfeld argued before the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, GA, which let stand an action brought by three young boys sexually abused by two older boys in the same Florida foster home. The Court agreed in this significant civil rights case that the state had violated the children’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights to physical safety and to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. Lead counsel Howard Talenfeld won his clients a settlement of $2.925 million – resulting in a change in how the state must treat foster children.
  • Case Involving Abuse and Drowning. In 2003, One-year-old Latiana Hamilton was drowned in a bathtub, and her three-year-old brother was horribly abused by foster mother Lena Cumberbatch with a belt and ironing cord. Justice for Kids attorney Howard Talenfeld was instrumental in filing civil rights complaints for her and her brother, paving the way for many other children to recover for their injuries. Substantial recoveries were made on behalf of these children. Ray v. Foltz, 370 F.3rd1079 (11 Cir. 2004) Read more from the Ledger, www.scholar.google.com/, www.scholar.google.com/
  • Civil Rights Claims Involving 42 USC § 1983. This civil rights lawsuit involved a claim by a foster child pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 in federal court in Palm Beach County, FL and for negligence against various Florida Department of Children & Family employees and a private mental health crisis stabilization unit for violating the due process rights of a foster child who was confined for almost one year in a crisis stabilization unit because there were no appropriate placements for discharge. The Plaintiff settled this lawsuit against the private agency for an undisclosed amount and the DCF and its employees for $1.6 million.
  • Children Against Foster Mother for Bizarre Punishments Settles for Undisclosed Amounts. Two siblings each filed separate civil rights claims against the Florida Department of Children & Families and child welfare agencies for being subjected to cruel and unusual punishments in her custody. The cases settled for more than $2 million.
  • Foster Child Livestreams Suicide on Facebook. Child abuse attorneys Howard Talenfeld and Stacie Schmerling represented the estate of a 14-year-old foster child who died by suicide while live streaming on Facebook from her foster parent’s bathroom. The lawsuit, filed in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County, FL, brought claims against the Florida Department of Children and Families, private child welfare agencies, and the foster parents for operating a system of care with no therapeutic placements and a lack of services, and for failing to protect the child from abuse, neglect and mental health deterioration while in foster care. Read more from the Miami New Times
  • Developmentally and Physically Disabled Foster Child Subjected to Abuse and Neglect in Foster Care in Florida Before Being Placed With Relatives in New York. Over a sixteen year period, DCF and its private contracted community based providers in Miami-Dade County, FL failed to have the child appropriately assessed, failed to provide an increased foster care board rate despite the child’s significant needs, failed to ensure the child received services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and put financial incentives of management ahead of helping foster children. The case was venued in federal court in the Southern District of Florida against DCF, private child welfare agencies in Miami-Dade County, and individual employees. The case resolved for undisclosed amounts. ;Woodburn v. Department of Children and Family Services, et al., 854 F. Supp. 2d 1184 (S.D. Fla. 2011); Woodburn v. Department of Children and Family Services, et al., 859 F. Supp. 2d 1305 (S.D. Fla. 2012)

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