January 20, 2011 in City, Idaho

Death of child triggers lawsuit

State, foster parents named in Idaho case
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The state of Idaho is responsible for the death of a Post Falls toddler, according to a lawsuit filed late last month in federal court.

Karina Janay Moore was 2 when she died Jan. 16, 2009, from injuries sustained 10 days earlier in her Post Falls foster home. According to police, her foster mother said the little girl fell down a flight of carpeted stairs. However, the Spokane County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide due to “blunt force” head trauma.

Now Karina’s estate – including her biological mother, Samantha Richardson, her maternal grandmother, Karin Rogers, and her two siblings – is suing the state Department of Health and Welfare, two state employees, and the foster parents, Jeremy and Amber Clark.

The case was filed Dec. 30 in federal court. Roland Watson, Richardson’s attorney, said he also filed the case in state court because the claims fall into different jurisdictions.

“A child died and the explanations are just not believable,” Watson said. “I’m more than willing to take that in front of a jury.”

Amber Clark also blames the state. She said when she and her husband received the request to take Karina and her two siblings, two of them were hospitalized. Clark said she had several children of her own and was pregnant but made repeated trips to the hospital to try to care for the children. Without disclosing the medical conditions, Clark said Karina had underlying medical issues that needed evaluation and that she contacted the state many times for help, but never received it.

She said she doesn’t know whether Karina’s health issues contributed to her falling down the stairs and because the little girl was cremated, “we’ll never know.”

“There’s been a misconception that the children came to us as normal little healthy, happy children, and that was as far from the truth as possible,” said Clark, 28. “We didn’t get into fostering to hurt a child. I have dedicated my everything to helping children.”

Richardson, however, called it “baloney” that Karina had pre-existing health issues when she entered foster care. She said Karina was once burned by the baseboard heater, but “other than that, there’s nothing to prove that anything else happened to her. And if anything else was wrong, why didn’t she take her to the doctor?”

Post Falls police Capt. Greg McLean said he doesn’t recall anything in the investigation – which included a review of medical reports – that would support the statement that Karina had pre-existing medical problems.

McLean said aside from some statements early on, the Clarks are not speaking to the police, which made the investigation more difficult. They have not been charged with a crime.

Tom Shanahan, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Welfare, declined to comment about the lawsuit. He said, however, that state protocol dictates that children undergo medical examinations within 30 days of entering foster care.

“That is the policy and we do follow it,” Shanahan said.

The lawsuit claims that the state and the Clarks were reckless and negligent regarding Karina’s care, that concerns Richardson raised about Karina’s care following visits were not addressed, and that the state did not adequately train the Clarks to prevent injury to the child.

The suit seeks a jury trial and a judgment in excess of $50,000, along with attorney’s fees.

Karina and her siblings were placed in the Clarks’ home in November 2008 after Richardson was charged with negligence due to injuries sustained by her son. Although she was cleared of hurting him, she lost custody. She eventually regained custody of her two surviving children.


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