Crime

Father of injured Tacoma boy sues DSHS for negligence

The father of a Tacoma boy critically injured as an infant by his mother’s boyfriend is suing the state Department of Social and Health Services, contending its employees knew the boy was in danger but did not protect him.

Ali Imad Abu-Alya seeks unspecified damages for himself and his son, Amir.

The lawsuit was filed on their behalf by attorneys Darrell Cochran and Sandra Johnston in Pierce County Superior Court last week.The suit also names the boy’s mother, Lia Frenchman, as a defendant.

“The agency was notified by friends of the family and by local police about concerns that someone was physically assaulting the baby, but the agency failed to take action to protect Amir,” the lawsuit states.

DSHS spokesman John Wiley said the department had no comment on the suit.

“We have not been served, but will review the allegations and make the appropriate responses in court filings when we are served,” Wiley said.

Efforts to reach Frenchman were unsuccessful.

The boy suffered a skull fracture, broken ribs, eye injuries and fractures to both arms and legs during what was nearly a month of abuse at the hands of DeShawn Little Eagle in 2011, court records show. The child was 7 months old.

Little Eagle later pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree child assault and was sentenced to eight years, six months in prison.

Abu-Alya’s lawsuit contends Tacoma police in October 2011 were aware of allegations that Little Eagle might have been abusing the boy but did not have enough evidence to make an arrest.

Officers referred the case to Child Protective Services.

A state social worker visited the child’s home Oct. 20 and saw the baby’s “head was swollen and that he had light bruising and a scratch on his head and a bruise on his leg,” court records show.

The social worker did not refer the child for a medical examination, the records show.

The same social worker went back eight days later, talked to Frenchman and left, according to the lawsuit. He did not call police for more information or make a referral for a medical exam after that visit, either, the lawsuit contends.

Two days later, Amir was admitted to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital for emergency treatment. In addition to his injuries, doctors noted the boy was emaciated, court records show.

Child Protective Services “could and should have prevented the nearly fatal injuries Amir suffered” in the days leading up to when he was hospitalized, Abu-Alya’s lawsuit states.

“Further,” according to the suit, “the manifestations of physical abuse (the baby’s swollen head and his severe emaciation) could have been easily identified by CPS with a visual inspection, thereby preventing the additional physical abuse that resulted in his emergency hospitalization on Oct. 30, 2011.”

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