Judge denies state bid to reduce $31 million award against DCS

September 30, 2016

A federal judge Friday rejected the state of Indiana’s motion to reduce a jury’s $31 million award last year against Department of Child Services workers and a state police officer for the wrongful removal of a couple’s children and prosecution of their parents.

“(T)he court finds no reason to conclude that the jury’s award in this case was either excessive or unreasonable as compared to other similar (or dissimilar) cases,” Judge Rudy Lozano wrote in an order issued Friday in Roman Finnegan, et al. v. Laurel Myers, et al., 3:08-CV-503.

Almost a year ago, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana returned the verdict after a 15-day trial. The jury ruled for the plaintiffs on four of five claims that actions of DCS caseworkers and investigators violated the rights of Pulaski County family whose daughter died.

Lynette and Roman Finnegan’s children were taken from their home after their daughter, Jessica, died and DCS suspected abuse. But a later investigation determined the child died after she was prescribed medication that caused a fatal drug interaction with another medication she took to treat a heart condition.

Nevertheless, DCS continued to pursue false neglect substantiations against the parents that a Pulaski County judge wrote were arbitrary and capricious as a matter of law.

“Today’s ruling confirms the jury’s findings that the DCS defendants repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of the Finnegan family, causing enormous damage and warranting the $31 million verdict,” Indianapolis attorney Ron Waicukauski said in an email. “We are pleased by the thoughtful decision and are glad to be one step closer to bringing the Finnegans’ decade-long ordeal to a just conclusion.”

A spokesperson for the office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, which defended the state in this case, said the order was being reviewed to determine next steps in the case.


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