Posted on Mar 27, 2007
Jury awards mom $4.9 million
Seal Beach woman said her children were improperly taken away from her by OC Department of Social Services
By LARRY WELBORN
The Orange County Register
A civil jury has awarded $4.9 million to a Seal Beach woman who claimed that the Orange County Department of Social Services violated her parental rights by taking her two pre-teen daughters away in 2000 and placing them in foster care.
Lawyers for Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick contended that two social workers fabricated negative evidence and suppressed positive evidence to support their decision to remove the girls, who were then 6 and 9.
The jury in Superior Court Judge Ronald Bauer's courtroom voted 10-2 that Fogarty-Hardwick's right to raise her children free of governmental interference had been violated, said Shawn A. McMillan, one of her attorneys.
The jury returns to court today to consider punitive damages.
McMillan said the $4.9 million verdict includes approximately $4.5 million in general damages against the county for providing inadequate training and/or supervision to the social workers and for showing deliberate indifference.
"In essence, the county saw what was going on and didn't do anything about it," McMillan said Monday.
Glen Stebens, an Irvine attorney representing Orange County, declined to comment Monday.
Dr. Michael Riley, the director of Children and Family Services for the department of social services, said he was made aware of the verdict on Monday and his staff is reviewing the case . "We were quite surprised (with the verdict)," he said.
"I had no idea that this would consume my life, and my children's lives, and my ex-husband's life for six and a half years," Fogarty-Hardwick said Monday. "It was a struggle I would not wish on anyone."
She said she did not wish to elaborate on the details of the case out of concern for the privacy of her daughters.
She said that after her children were taken away in February 2000, she was allowed only monitored visits with them for two years when they were placed first at Orangewood Children's Home and then with foster parents. Her ex-husband was given custody of the children in 2002, and she was given visitation two weekends a month, Fogarty-Hardwick said.
Now, she said, she shares custody of her daughters, who are teenagers, with her ex-husband.