A New Jersey appeals court has overturned a verdict that contained a whopping $166 million payout from the state Division of Youth and Family Services to a child who was severely assaulted by his father.
The case was brought to court and reached a verdict in 2013. The detailed account of what took place made headlines and shocked those who were following the case throughout the litigation process. The suit involved then 4-month-old Jadiel Velesquez, who was left cognitively disabled and blind when his father, Joshua Velesquez, forcefully shook him in order to stop him from crying.
The lawsuit was filed by Jadiel's grandmother, Neomi Escobar. She asserted that Division of Youth and Family Services failed to protect the boy from his father, even when she insisted he be removed from the household. She also claimed that the organization knew of Joshua's violent outbursts and abusive behavior and should have removed him from the home, but failed to do so. The lawsuit detailed that the baby will be confined to a wheelchair and will need around-the-clock medical care for the rest of his life. Jadiel's condition also leaves him unable to to walk and talk.
When the jury ruled in favor of Neomi after a two-week trial, she was ecstatic. The curly-haired boy was removed from the home of his mother and father, and Neomi and her husband have adopted him. They take care of Jadiel in their home.
“For Jadiel, i thank God,” Neomi said. “The jury did a great thing. They did justice for Jadi. I was screaming for them to take the baby away from them every single day. I did everything possible. I love him so much. I'm his mother now.”
Joshua was convicted of second-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree child abuse as a result of the incident.
Four years later, the tables have turned. The case has been assessed by an appeals court and it has concluded that DYFS “lacked a basis to remove the infant, given what was known at the time the abuse incident took place.” The court also came to the conclusion that the two employee defendants listed in the case should have been granted immunity because their actions were reasonable. Since these employees were not provided with immunity, the appeals court declined to hold DYFS or the state liable for the boy's injuries.
In the wake of the news, the attorney representing Jadiel and his grandmother says that he would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. He says the appeals court's application of immunity just protects the state and hinders impending suits against public government employees.