BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Ten special needs children who were beaten and starved for years by their foster mother can call expert witnesses to support their negligence claims against New York City and several agencies.
Judith Leekin, who is not a party to the lawsuit, used six aliases to collect about $1.68 million in adoption subsidies, and was later convicted of beating, starving, humiliating and handcuffing the plaintiffs in a basement between 1986 and 1994.
Ten of her victims filed suit for multiple counts of negligence in 2009 against New York City, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), St. Joseph’s Services for Children fka Catholic Child Care Society of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Heartshare Human Services fka Catholic Guardian Society Diocese of Brooklyn and SCO Family of Services fka St. Christopher-Ottilie.
After child welfare consultants Henry Gunn and Peg McCartt Hess submitted reports alleging systemic failures at ACS, the city retained experts Elaine Walsh and Richard Barth to argue that the city could not have anticipated Leekin’s abuse of the children and the adoption system.
In one of the reports, Barth argued that “the fraudulent activities of Leekin were so anomalous that a typical child welfare agency would not have been expected to detect them.”
In response, the plaintiffs had their existing experts file reply papers and retained Mark Safarik to specifically refute the city’s contention that Leekin’s fraud was hard to spot.
“Leekin was not, as Meacham and Roger Depue opine, a sophisticated criminal mastermind impervious to detection,” Safarik wrote. “A review of the record clearly reflects that Judith Leekin was reckless, disorganized and lacked a high level of sophistication.”
City lawyers vigorously fought the admission of the Safarik report, calling it an attempt to “game” the system.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go disagreed and allowed its admission on Monday.
“Mr. Safarik’s report contains quintessential rebuttal testimony to that of the defendants’ experts,” Go wrote. “Contrary to the City’s claims, I do not find that Mr. Safarik’s report is an effort by plaintiffs to ‘game’ the system.”
Expert depositions will wrap up by Dec. 23.