Sexual abuse of child continues after county social workers involved. $45.4M. Los Angeles County.


Social workers don't properly follow through after they find a known child molester living in child's room.

The Case

  • Case Name: F.M. v. County of Los Angeles
  • Court and Case Number: LA Superior Court / BC510993
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, July 26, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, June 04, 2013
  • Type of Case: Sexual Abuse
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Stephen Moloney
  • Plaintiffs:
    F.M., a minor.
  • Defendants:
    County of Los Angeles
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $45,400,000
  • Net Verdict or Award: $20,650,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    County of LA: $20,650,000

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: County of LA was found 45% at fault. Mother: 45%; and the 4 adult male perpetrators: a total of 10% (2.5% each.)
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: waived.

    Future medical: $400,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past emotional harm: $15,000,000

    Future emotional harm: $30,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 1/2 weeks
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 1/2 hours
  • Jury Polls: 10-2

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Taylor & Ring by Dave Ring, Louanne Masry and Sonya Ostovar, Manhattan Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Collins Collins Muir + Stewart LLP by Tom Guterres, Christie Bodnar Swiss, Kristin Huynh, and Megan Lieber, South Pasadena and Carlsbad.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Anthony Reading, Ph.D., psychology, Beverly Hills.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Ann Welty, M.D., psychiatry, Long Beach.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Joseph Bongiovanni, child protective services.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Joi Russell, child protective services.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was 7 years old in 2010 and living with her mother, who was under supervision of the Dept of Children & Family Services (DCFS) for another matter. DCFS social workers were required to check on the welfare of the plaintiff each month. The social workers learned that the mother allowed an adult male friend, Louis, to live at the home and that Louis was sharing a bedroom with the minor. The social workers ran a criminal check on Louis and learned he had a prior criminal charge for sexual battery on a child. The social workers told the mother that Louis must leave the home and could not be alone with the plaintiff. The social workers were mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse.

    The evidence at trial showed that Louis never moved out of the home, although the social workers were told that he had moved out of the home in 2010, and that mother had signed an affidavit attesting that he had moved out of the home. At trial, Plaintiff testified that Louis was sexually abusing plaintiff at that time, and continued to abuse her for the next two years. Plaintiff alleged that the mother allowed other men to live or come to the home, and those men also sexually abused plaintiff during 2011 and 2012. The mother allowed this because she received drugs and cash from the men. In summer 2012, plaintiff, then age 9, disclosed the abuse that had been taking place. El Monte Police were notified and investigated. The mother and four perpetrators, including Louis, werel arrested and convicted of felonies and sentenced to prison.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that the DCFS social workers breached their mandatory duty under the law to report suspected child abuse, pursuant to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA). The social workers formed a reasonable suspicion that abuse was taking place in 2010 and failed to report it to law enforcement or to DCFS, and instead closed the DCFS case because they assumed Louis had moved out.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant County of Los Angeles (DCFS) contended that its social workers did not suspect child abuse by Louis; that they asked plaintiff if she was being molested and plaintiff said she was not. The social workers were therefore not required to report under CANRA. They properly fulfilled their mandatory duties as social workers by investigating the abuse and by making regular visits to the home and by securing the mother's affidavit under penalty of perjury that Louis moved out.

    That plaintiff denied multiple times that she was being abused, and no other mandatory reporter, including her teacher, her therapist, and her family preservation worker suspected any abuse. The social workers interviewed her mother, grandmother, aunt, teacher, therapist, and family preservation worker, and no one suspected any abuse.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Sexual abuse lasting two years.

  • Serious emotional harm, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other psychological injuries to a young girl.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Waived.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $400,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $22,100,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $1,000,000