Montana Must Pay $16M For Failure to Investigate Child Abuse That Left Victim Blind

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Representation. A gavel.

A Montana jury has ordered the state to pay $16.6 million in damages to a victim of child abuse after the state failed to properly investigate the case even after reporting it to them, causing the 6-month-old to suffer severe injuries that left her blind.

The child continued to be in the custody of her father and his girlfriend after the abuse was first reported in December 2008. A caseworker from the Division of Child and Family Services failed to assess the safety and did not remove her from their home, leading her to suffer preventable abuse, the court was told.

The jury found the state to be responsible for the injuries the girl suffered in February 2009. The 6-month-old girl had a traumatic brain injury that led to blindness, developmental delays, and seizures, St.Louis Post Dispatch reported.

The girlfriend of the victim's father, Alicia Jo Hocter, was later found guilty of aggravated assault and criminal endangerment.

Investigators found that Hocter assaulted the infant by tossing her into a wooden crib and swinging her against the edge of it while holding her around the waist. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison in July 2010.

The jury has ordered the state to pay the now 13-year-old victim $6.6 million for her future care, $5 million for the loss of her course of life, $4 million for mental and emotional suffering, $713,000 for lost earnings, and $336,000 for past care. The girl currently attends a boarding school for the blind and deaf,  Independent Record reported.

"This is an important moment for our client and represents a measure of justice for her. The jury’s verdict also recognizes the importance of properly investigating child abuse complaints,” Larry Anderson, the victim's lawyer said in a statement.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Adam Meier said the agency might go for an appeal. “While the correctness of the court’s decision remains in dispute, the unspeakable nature of this crime is not,” Meier said in a  statement to Great Falls Tribune on Wednesday.


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Photo: Pixabay

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