The Department of Children and Families (DCF) failed to investigate complaints that the mother was using drugs and endangering her child, who suffered “catastrophic” permanent injuries from severe abuse and neglect. The child, H.H., is now eight years old and completely dependent on others for all aspects of her daily functioning, according to Justice for Kids, which represented her. The award is among the largest in state history for this kind of case. The jury’s verdict speaks to “the sheer magnitude and severity” of the girl’s injuries, attorney Stacie Schmerling said. The Department received a report through its abuse hotline about H.H. and her brother in May 2017, concerning drug activity in the home and poor living conditions. Moreover, the stepfather, who lived in the home and was a caregiver to H.H., had a criminal history that included arrests for violent crimes, the complaint says.
DCF’s hotline received another similar complaint the following month that also alleged the parents were not supervising the children. However, state investigators failed to take any action to prevent the neglect and physical abuse of H.H., at the hands of her mother and stepfather, who were addicted to drugs. Shortly after, the child spent 109 days in the hospital having suffered horrific injuries including traumatic brain injury due to repeated head trauma. Today, she suffers from severe cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, epilepsy, ineffective airway clearance, restrictive lung disease, and sleep apnea. She requires a feeding tube and is unable to walk or talk.
Read more from the Orlando Sentinel here.