Rafaelina Duval v. County of Los Angeles, et al.


by Shawn McMillan

RE: Rafaelina Duval v. County of Los Angeles, et al.

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles

Case No. BC470714 (Trial before Hon. William A. MacLaughlin, Dept. 89)

San Diego, CA: November 10, 2016-- Last Friday, a Los Angeles County jury found Los Angeles County social workers with the Department of Children and Family Services intentionally and willfully seized a child from his mother without a warrant and did so with malice, oppression, and fraud. Los Angeles County, Supervising Social Worker Kimberly Rogers, and Social Worker Susan Pender will be required to pay Rafaelina Duval $3.1 million dollars.

Ms. Duval’s baby, Ryan, was seized from her custody the evening of November 3, 2009. He was only 15 months old. According to the complaint, DCFS social workers falsely accused Duval of general neglect and willfully and intentionally starving her child. Baby Ryan was taken without a warrant – and only after the maternal grandfather called the social workers white trash, and accused them of racism. Attorney Shawn McMillan says, “The law is very clear and they get training on this, you can not seize a child from its parents unless there’s an emergency. The conduct of these workers, in my opinion, was motivated by their anger at being called trash, and did not have anything to do with the best interests of this child or his family.”

Not only was baby Ryan taken away without a warrant, social workers ordered no reunification. Allegedly, they falsely accused Ms. Duval of suffering from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy – an exceedingly rare mental illness. Ms. Duval was only allowed monitored visitation --- an hour an half every two weeks.

In addition to the jury’s findings against Ms. Rogers and Ms. Pender, the jury also unanimously found that the County of Los Angeles’ has “an official custom and/or practice of seizing children from their parents without a warrant, failed to enact an official policy or procedure when it should have done so, and knew, because of a pattern of similar violations that its official customs or practices were likely to result in the violation of parents’ rights to be free of unwarranted seizures of their children”

Seven years have passed, but Ms. Duval never stopped fighting for Ryan who is now 8 years old. The jury awarded Ms. Duval $3.1 million to compensate her for the emotional distress she suffered as a result of the unwarranted and malicious seizure of her baby. Ms. Duval says, “No amount of money can ever replace what they took from me.”

Lead trial attorney Shawn A. McMillan says: “Ms. Duval is hopeful that the County of Los Angeles listens to the message this jury sent. It is incumbent upon our government to ensure that this sort of misconduct never happens again.”

This case encompasses extremely important issues for the people of Los Angeles, and the people of the State of California. Allegations of social worker misconduct of the type proven in this case are, according to McMillan, “ubiquitous. Hopefully, the remaining 57 counties in California will take note of the outcome of this case and promulgate policies to prevent their social workers from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.”

San Diego Lawyer Shawn A. McMillan, of the Law Offices of Shawn A.

McMillan, A.P.C., was lead trial counsel in the case. Attorneys Tiffany Chung, Stephen King, and Richard Prager were co-counsel at trial.

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Reference Info: Verdict | State, 9th Circuit, California | United States

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Shawn McMillan, The Law Offices of Shawn A. McMillan, A.P.C. | Attorney Advertising

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