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Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney > Blog > Personal Injury > Wrongful Death Lawsuit Allowed To Move Forward Against Caseworker

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Allowed To Move Forward Against Caseworker


Social workers and caseworkers are government employees. The government passes laws that “permit” injury lawsuits to proceed against them, but actually limit damages, limit the types of allegations you can make, and prevent a large majority of personal injury lawsuits based on negligence from proceeding to court. For example, a police officer who beats a suspect in the line of duty may be entitled to immunity if the cause of action is based on negligence. If the cause of action is based on a failure to conform to department policy or conduct outside the aegis of their employment, then they can be individually held liable and the state can be held liable for their conduct.

This case moved through the appellate courts in Ohio and made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court after the defendants argued that the plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action that could overcome the limits placed on plaintiffs by sovereign immunity. However, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously decided to reinstate the lawsuit.

Essentially, the court was tasked with deciding whether or not a reckless and wanton exception to the state’s sovereign immunity laws would require a plaintiff to make a pleading that alleged something more than negligence. The court held that the plaintiffs did not have to plead more than negligence for this case to move forward.

What happened? 

A two-year-old girl was placed back into the custody of her parents after showing up at the hospital severely malnourished with signs of muscle wasting and abnormal skin discoloration. Despite open and obvious signs of abuse, the child was returned to her mother. A caseworker later returned to the home, and found the child sleeping in a crib. The child died three days later. Prosecutors alleged that the child was starved, abused, and locked in a bathroom. Two case workers resigned after the girl’s death. The mother is serving 15 years to life in prison.

The grandmother filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio alleging that regulatory protections failed to prevent the girl’s death. However, it can be very difficult to win a lawsuit against the state on the grounds of something they did not do. It’s much easier to win a lawsuit against the state for something they did do. In other words, sovereign immunity generally prevents such lawsuits from moving forward, and did, in fact, in the case mentioned above. The decision to dismiss the lawsuit was appealed all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court which decided to reinstate the lawsuit.

While the lawsuit was reinstated, the plaintiff must still prove that the caseworkers’ conduct was wanton, reckless, or devoid of care. In other words, they don’t have to make a pleading of recklessness or wantonness for the case to proceed to a jury, but once the case reaches a jury, the jury will be making a decision based on whether or not the caseworkers’ conduct was reckless, wanton, or devoid of care. In other words, the plaintiff cannot win this case based on proving simple negligence, as is the case in most states.

Talk to a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney Today 

If you’ve lost a loved one or been injured yourself due to the negligence of another party, you are entitled to recoup damages related to your injury. Call the Jacksonville personal injury attorneys at Gillette Law today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.



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