Relatives of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died after allegedly being subjected to extensive torture by his mother and her boyfriend lost a round in court this week when a judge ruled they cannot seek punitive damages against a Pasadena agency that provided mental health services to the child.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court granted a motion to strike the punitive damages claim brought against Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services by family members of Anthony Avalos, who died on June 21, 2018.
The judge also ruled the boy’s estate will have to shore up its two claims for wrongful death and one for survival against Hathaway-Sycamores for those allegations to remain intact. However, she said there were enough details in the case to support for now the claims for negligence and willful and wanton misconduct brought against Hathaway-Sycamores on behalf of Anthony’s half- siblings.
In the willful and wanton misconduct claim, the suit alleges Hathaway-Sycamores assigned employee Barbara Dixon to work with the family even though she had allegedly not reported abuse in the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, who, like Anthony, was killed while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend.
But in their court papers, attorneys for Hathaway-Sycamores state the plaintiffs make no allegations as to what Dixon allegedly witnessed or whether she suspected any abuse that was not already part of what the county Department of Children and Family Services already knew.
The hearing did not deal with the lawsuit’s allegations against Los Angeles County and the DCFS, which also include wrongful death.
Anthony’s mother, Heather Maxine Barron, 30, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 35, were indicted on murder and torture charges. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty against the two.