WICHITA — The grandparents of a 23-month-old girl who was beaten to death will be allowed to sue a Kansas social worker who they say intentionally ignored their complaints about the care the girl was receiving before she was killed, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Wednesday.
The appeals court decision reversed a ruling by a federal judge in Kansas that threw out the lawsuit against Linda Gillen. She no longer works for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services but the state is defending her in court, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Larry and Mary Crosetto allege in the lawsuit that Gillen did not respond to their complaints because she had a personal grudge against them. Their granddaughter, Brooklyn Coons, of Coffeyville, died in January 2008. Her father’s girlfriend, Melissa Wells, is serving life in prison for the girl’s death.
The Crosettos, Brooklyn’s maternal grandparents, are seeking $750,000.
The grandparents allege Gillen refused to take calls from police or accept pictures of alleged abuse, lied about visiting the home where the girl lived and told the grandparents that the abuse “was not her issue, but one for law enforcement.” Gillen claimed the abuse allegations against Wells were unsubstantiated, the lawsuit says.
The appeals court reversed U.S. District Judge Monti Belot’s finding that Gillen was “entitled to qualified immunity because her overall conduct was not decidedly affirmative and did not shock the conscience,” according to the decision filed Wednesday.
The appeals court said the remaining issue in the lawsuit is whether Gillen “purposefully, maliciously, and intentionally” did not act on the complaints, placing Brooklyn and her siblings in danger.
“This is more than negligence or indifference; the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs indicates a deliberate decision to ignore based on decade-old animosity toward the Crosetto family,” the court said.
When the lawsuit was thrown out in July of 2011, the SRS argued that Gillen had no duty to intervene after she investigated a report claiming abuse and neglect against the child.
Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, said in an email that Gillen has not worked for the SRS since April 19, 2011, but said she couldn’t comment on whether Gillen resigned, retired or was fired.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com