Four-year-old Jadiel Velesquez was awarded $165 million in a personal injury suit against the Division of Youth and Family Services. The jury verdict, delivered on Dec. 13, represents the largest personal injury award in New Jersey’s history, and the nation’s largest against a child protective agency. A jury found that, due to the abusive behavior of the boy’s father, Joshua Velesquez, when Jadiel was an infant, the boy is now blind and in need of 24-hour supervision and care for the rest of his life.
Joshua Velesquez is serving six years in jail for aggravated assault. Jadiel’s mother no longer has custody. The courts awarded full custody to the child’s maternal grandparents.
New Jersey’s chapter of DYFS (now known as the Division of Child Protection and Permanency), has been found 100 percent liable for all damages in the case. This is because DYFS failed to act appropriately in the child’s best interest, despite obvious and apparent dangers.
In May of 2009, Jadiel was taken to Newark’s Beth Israel Hospital, after Jadiel’s grandmother, Neomi Escobar, called DYFS to report a suspicion of child abuse by her daughter’s boyfriend. The toddler apparently had blood in his eyes and bruised cheeks, according to the report. Doctors later released Jadiel from the hospital, after also suspecting abuse.
The next week, Escobar said she found a crack pipe in Jadiel’s diaper bag, and in the following week, DYFS case workers and the family of Jadiel drafted a plan to not allow Joshua Velesquez to care for the child by himself.
A New Jersey criminal background check of the boy’s father, conducted by DYFS, came up clean. However, they failed to check Florida, where Velesquez had over 20 arrests, including multiple assault charges. It was argued that Velesquez was a highly dangerous individual, who was unfit to raise a child. Even further, it was argued that DYFS had ample evidence of these facts, knew that Velesquez was an unfit caregiver, and still failed to act appropriately.
The initial award of $165 million was to be paid by both Velesquez and DYFS, but when the jury was asked to assign which percentage should be paid by whom, they returned with the verdict that DYFS was 100 percent liable. The ruling shows that child protection service organizations are responsible for doing their due diligence in background checks and are responsible for taking children out of bad situations before it’s too late.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of child abuse, there may be multiple parties at fault, act now before there is a catastrophic injury. Contact the New Jersey personal injury defense attorneys at Team Law. Call 732-388-5454 today for your free consultation.