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Social service blamed for North Carolina girl's wrongful death

Whenever the Fayetteville community learns about the death of a child, many are overcome by grief as well as a renewed appreciation for their families. But when the death of a child is caused by someone else's negligent actions, such as drunk driving or a mistake during surgery, the tragic event oftentimes creates a sense of urgency within the community to make sure that no other child or family is affected by similar acts of negligence.

Last year, a 15-month-old child died from abuse and neglect while under the care of her great aunt in North Carolina. Last week, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the agency that investigated reports of abuse concerning the child, claiming that social service workers failed to take the appropriate actions to remove the girl from her great aunt's home. The lawsuit claims that it was obvious the child was in danger, and because the agency did not remove the child from the home, the agency should be held partly responsible for the child's death.

According to the lawsuit filed with North Carolina's Industrial Commission on behalf of the child's estate, the Swain County Department of Social Services had received three reports of alleged abuse between September 2010 and November 2010. Reports indicated that the child's great aunt had been abusing and neglecting her. In January 2011, the child was rushed to the hospital where she later died.

The lawsuit claims that the social workers who were asked to investigate the reports of abuse failed to conduct thorough investigations that would have prompted the agency to remove the child from the home. The agency failed to protect the child, which contributed to her death, attorneys claim.

The attorneys who are filing the claim on behalf of the child's estate said that they hope this tragic incident will at the very least prompt the state Department of Health and Human Services to change its policies and procedures regarding the way in which agencies conduct investigations of abuse and neglect in order to better protect the lives of children who may be living in dangerous homes.

Source:, "Lawyers file claim with state over NC girl's death," Tom Breen, Feb. 16, 2012

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Social service blamed for North Carolina girl's wrongful death | Britton Law, P.A.