Child is injured in home after social worker closes case. $113M. San Bernardino County.


Five-year-old child is severely brain injured by guardian after social worker fails to perform a mandatory duty and closes investigation of child abuse.

The Case

  • Case Name: Laurell Reed as guardian at litem for Noah Reed, a minor v. County of San Bernardino Children and Family Services
  • Court and Case Number: San Bernardino Superior Court / CIVDS 1416377
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, July 03, 2019
  • Type of Case: Negligence
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Brian Foster
  • Plaintiffs:
    Minor child
  • Defendants:
    County of San Bernardino Children and Family Services
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $113,402,625.66
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 85% liability on Defendant, County of San Bernardino Children and Family Services; 10% on Christopher Reed; 5% on Hanna Thompson.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past Medical expenses: $602,625.66

    Future Medical expenses: $9,900,000

    Future loss of earning capacity: $2,900,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $15,000.000

    Future: $85,000,000

  • Jury Polls: 11-1 violation of a mandatory duty; 11-1 substantial factor; 9-3 comparative liability; 9-3 damages.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Vartazarian Law Firm by Steven Vartazarian and Matthew Whibley, Sherman Oaks.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Dolen, Tucker, Popka & Abraham by Raymond Dolen, Redlands.

    San Bernardino County Counsel by Blakney Boggs.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Bruce Roseman, M.D., pediatric neurology.

    Farbod Asgazardi, M.D., neurosurgery.

    George Hanna, M.D., neurosurgery.

     Damon Delbello, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

    Leslie Green, M.D., ophthalmology.

    Ivory Tifa, Lisa Sweeney, occupational therapy.

    Katherine Kolesar, physical therapy.

    Cheryl Rourke, speech therapy.

    Joseph Carfi, M.D., life care planning.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Jean Lake, M.D., pediatric neurology.

    Rhonda Renteria, life care planning.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Loren Sutor, child services.

    David Fractor, PhD., economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Deanna Avey-Motikeit, child services

    Stephanie Rizzardi, economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    In October 2013, defendant’s employee, social worker Karen Perry, went out to the Yucca Valley home of Christopher Reed, Noah Reed (then aged 5) and Christopher Reed’s girlfriend Hannah Thompson, to investigate reports that Ms. Thompson was abusing Noah Reed. When Karen Perry went to the Reed home she spoke to Christopher Reed, Hannah Thompson, and Noah Reed. She identified that Noah Reed was at-risk for injury given the evidence and dynamics in the home, that Hannah Thompson had mental problems, and that the family was in need of help.  She referred them to various Child Welfare Services.  She then closed the file.

    In May 2014, Hannah Thompson injured Noah Reed so badly that he sustained permanent brain damage to the entire left side of his brain, causing permanent, severe cognitive dysfunction, spastic quadriplegia, bowel dysfunction, and an ocular nerve injury. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That pursuant to mandatory duties, Karen Perry was supposed to open a “case plan” once she identified a risk and referred to Child Welfare Services. However, she closed the file. That defendant's employee failed to perform her mandatory duty, contributing to the future injury to plaintiff minor child.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That defendants did not violate a mandatory duty. That Noah Reed was not at risk of injury, and social workers appropriately closed the file. Finally, that the parties entirely responsible for Noah Reed’s injury were Hanna Thompson and Christopher Reed.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Permanent brain damage to the entire left side of his brain, causing permanent, severe cognitive dysfunction, spastic quadriplegia, bowel dysfunction, and an ocular nerve injury. 

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $12,500,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $2,500,000