Indiana to pay family $25M in child death lawsuit
The Indiana attorney general and Department of Child Services’ decision to settle a lawsuit brought by a wrongly prosecuted family yielded the largest payment of its type in state history.
Roman and Lynette Finnegan were investigated and criminally charged with neglect after the death of their daughter Jessica in their home in Francesville, Indiana in 2005. But even after an investigation showed the girl died due to a prescription medication error that caused a fatal drug interaction with another medication she took to treat a lifelong heart condition, DCS continued to pursue false neglect charges against the parents.
A Pulaski County judge found investigators had falsified official records to justify the false facts surrounding the case. The judge ruled that the treatment of the Finnegan family was arbitrary and capricious. DCS’ intervention resulted in the removal of the Finnegans’ 3 other children, who were placed in foster care.
The Finnegans brought suit in Pulaski County for the false prosecution and violations of their first, fourth and fourteenth amendment rights. The Finnegan parents lost their jobs has a result of the prosecution and the whole family suffered enormous emotional strain according to the Finnegan’s attorney. Attorneys for the state and the Finnegan family concluded the long-running lawsuit in late May 2017 when the parties agreed to settle a federal civil rights complaint at a cost to taxpayers of $25 million.
The money will be paid from the tort claims fund from general tax revenue dollars. The Finnegan settlement is outsized — about two to three times the total of all settlements, judgments, claims and litigation costs the tort claims fund has paid in any of the past five fiscal years, according to state budget data.