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Can Medical Facilities Be Held Responsible for Not Reporting Child Abuse?

Child cowers from potentially abusive loved one

It was late January of 2011 when a seven-week-old baby was brought into Sutter Amador Hospital in Jackson, California. The boy had injuries to his eye, bruising on the face, and a mouthful of blood, yet doctors only treated the child and sent him home with his teenage parents and maternal grandmother. Now, several years later, a California court thinks the medical facility may have been partially responsible for what later happened to the child because potential abuse was not reported.

Who Is Responsible When Child Abuse Is Not Reported?

Three weeks later, the child from before was back at the hospital. This time the child had a broken clavicle, two broken ribs, bruising over much of his body and a spinal cord injury. The spinal injury left the boy permanently paralyzed from the waist down, and it spurred the hospital to notify Child Protective Services.

The boy was taken from his biological parents and placed into the care of a foster family that would later go on to adopt him. However, over the years questions began to arise and it soon became clear that the boy’s paralysis should never have happened.

California law requires that mandated reporters—such as doctors, nurses and other hospital staff—report instances of child injury that may have been caused by abuse. But during this little boy’s first visit to the hospital, when he sustained injuries to the face, hospital staff never reported the boy’s injuries to CPS.

This factor—and many others—landed a doctor, a nurse, two nurse practitioners, and Sutter Amador Hospital’s supervising medical group in court. Along with the biological parents and maternal grandparents, the hospital was sued for not reporting potential child abuse, which may have led to the paralysis of this child. The boy, who is now 6 years old, was subsequently awarded an $8.4 million verdict.

This story was brought to you by the child abuse attorneys at Mary Alexander & Associates—remember, if you don’t stand up for a child, who will?

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