Baby-death compo claim is laughed out of court

June 9, 2009

Here’s hoping no legal aid was involved in the case of the mother and father who have failed in their bid for compensation from Child, Youth and Family (or from taxpayers, in other words) for the death of their baby son in foster care.

Four-month-old Patrick Martin died nearly two weeks after being put into CYF care in 2002.

The parents later claimed the service breached a duty of care.

But they don’t seem to have had a case and Alf wonders about the nature of the legal advice they were given. He also wonders who is paying the legal bills.

According to Radio NZ’s account of the case heard in Auckland District Court:

Judge Phil Gittos said he does not find the allegations that the agency failed to consult with the pair proven, nor their concerns about Patrick’s standard of care.

He says there was no evidence that a social worker tried to mislead the pair and there was no foundation for their allegation of misfeasance of public office.

The judge said there was not a shred of evidence to suggest malice or recklessness on the part of Child, Youth and Family.

He said the parents had comprehensively failed to establish liability.

He added that, as a matter of law, grief alone is not compensatible.

Judge Gittos also said that the threshold of proof had not been achieved in evidence put forward that the Martins had suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Oh, and Radio NZ reminds us that the coroner cleared the department of any blame in 2003. It was ruled that Patrick’s death was from sudden infant death syndrome.

So the case was a crock.

Even so, the mother is wailing that Child, Youth and Family has got off scot-free and she will never agree with the judgment.

CYF has had heaps of criticisms heaped on it over the years, but this time it looks like the case deserved to be laughed out of court.

We can only wonder how it ever got there.