Judge reverses $113.4-million injury verdict

Noah Reed, shown here in 2018 at the age of 9, now lives in upstate New York with his mother and grandparents.

YUCCA VALLEY — Noah Reed was left a quadriplegic after he was severely abused by his father’s girlfriend; last summer a jury found that the San Bernardino County Department of Family and Child Services was primarily at fault for his injuries. Last week Superior Court Judge Bryan Foster overturned the verdict, which would have awarded Reed’s family $113.4 million.

In 2014 5-year-old Noah Reed was living with his father, Christopher Reed, and his father’s live-in girlfriend, Hannah Thompson. They made their home on Palomar Avenue in Yucca Valley.

While they lived there, multiple people, including Thompson’s mother and a roommate who lived with the family, reported to CFS that Noah was being abused, according to Noah’s attorney Steve Vartazarian.

They were also visited by a county social worker, Karen Perry, who identified that Noah was potentially at risk in the home.

In May 2014, Thompson called 911 saying that Noah had fallen off of a stool and hit his head. Doctors at Loma Linda deemed the injuries suspicious. Court records indicated that doctors found several bruises on Reed’s body and they noted he was malnourished. Thompson was found to have either beaten or violently shaken Reed to the point where he was critically injured and his brain was swollen.

Thompson and Christopher Reed were both arrested for child abuse. According to court records, Thompson was found guilty on two counts of willful cruelty to a child resulting in injury or death. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Christopher Reed entered a plea to misdemeanor child abuse and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, a one-year batterer intervention program and three years of probation. He completed the terms of his probation in June and his case was dismissed.

In October 2014, Noah’s mother, Laurell Reed, filed a lawsuit against the county. The suit, filed by Vartazarian Law Firm, alleged that the county was negligent because Perry with the Department of Child and Family Services did not file a case study after determining that Noah was in danger in a home with Hannah Thompson.

“She identified that the child was at risk. She identified that he was abused but she did nothing,” Vartazarian said in an interview in July. “When you refer a family to services, you’re supposed to open a case plan to monitor the family over the next six months.”

The trial went before a jury and on July 3, Noah and Laurell Reed were awarded $100 million for past and future pain and suffering, $9.9 million for future medical expenses, $2.9 million for loss of future earnings and $602,625.66 for past medical expenses.

After the county was officially notified of the court’s decision, it quixkly filed for an appeal.

“It is understandable that a jury would be outraged when a child is harmed. The county is outraged, too,” county public information officer David Wert said in an email in August. “But in this case the jury’s outrage was misplaced.”

Foster agreed and found that the county was in no way responsible for Noah Reed’s injuries. Foster ruled the evidence establishes that Perry and CFS fully complied with all mandatory duties required by the county, Wert said in an email on Tuesday.

Wert went on to say that when sheriff’s deputies and county Children and Family Services social workers responded to reports of abuse and neglect at Noah’s home in September and October 2013, they found no evidence of abuse or neglect. In accordance with the law, the county closed the case, he said. Nothing more was heard until May 2014, when Thompson severely beat Noah, Wert said.

“Clearly, the jury was outraged by what had happened to Noah, as was the county and mistakenly directed that outrage toward the county,” Wert said. “The judge agreed the jury’s decision was in error.”

(2) comments

hanniek

This is an outrage. The county can move on while this child will forever be a victim of heinous violence. Regardless of what this judge said, somebody failed this child and, as the county receives funding and authority to specifically address these types of cases, the responsibility for his safety lay primarily with those authorities. This is shameful negligence and i hope that county worker was fired. At the very least, she will have to live knowing the part she played in this child's suffering.

booboo77

How darn cruel can you get? The jury spoke. Who is this "judge" to overturn it? A stooge of the county. What bunch of stupid, cold-blooded idiots decided to save their butts by arranging this? The kid should at least get 30 or 40 million- look at all the care he's going to need for the rest of his life.

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