Montana will be fined $16 million for failing to investigate child abuse that resulted in the victim’s blindness.
The state of Montana has been forced to pay $16.6 million in damages to a child abuse victim after the state failed to properly investigate the matter even after it was reported to them, causing the 6-month-old to suffer horrific injuries that rendered her blind.
After the abuse was originally reported in December 2008, the child remained in the custody of her father and his girlfriend. According to the court, a caseworker from the Division of Child and Family Services failed to assess her safety and did not remove her from their home, resulting in her suffering preventable abuse.
The state was found to be liable for the damage the girl sustained in February 2009. According to the St.Louis Post Dispatch, the 6-month-old daughter suffered a catastrophic brain injury that resulted in blindness, developmental delays, and seizures.
Alicia Jo Hocter, the victim’s father’s fiancée, was later convicted of aggravated assault and criminal endangerment.
Hocter allegedly abused the infant by flinging her into a wooden crib and swinging her against the crib’s edge while holding her about the waist, according to investigators. In July 2010, she was sentenced to 30 years in jail.
The jury awarded the now-13-year-old victim $6.6 million in future care, $5 million in lost earnings, $4 million in mental and emotional anguish, $713,000 in lost earnings, and $336,000 in past care to the state. According to the Independent Record, the girl is currently enrolled at a boarding school for the blind and deaf.
“This is a significant milestone for our client, and it symbolizes a measure of justice.” In a statement, the victim’s lawyer, Larry Anderson, stated that the jury’s decision “recognizes the necessity of thoroughly investigating child abuse reports.”
Director Adam Meier of the Department of Public Health and Human Services said the agency might file an appeal. “While the court’s ruling is debatable, the horrific nature of this murder is not,” Meier said in a statement to the Great Falls Tribune on Wednesday.