The siblings of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy whose 2019 death was originally reported as a drowning — but later led to a criminal indictment of his parents — are not entitled to an expedited trial of their wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County by virtue of the ages of the minor plaintiffs, lawyers for the county argued in new court papers.
The lawsuit stems from the death of Noah Cuatro. His great-grandmother, Evangelina Hernandez, brought the case in July 2020 on behalf of herself and Noah’s minor siblings, a sister and two brothers. In court papers filed this week, attorneys for the county state that the question of whether the minor plaintiffs have the right to bring the suit is unresolved.
“Thus, importantly, plaintiffs will have standing … only if both their parents, also the surviving parents of the deceased sibling, are determined to have acted intentionally and feloniously and are thus divested of their intestate rights,” the county lawyers maintain in their court papers.
The county also has not yet received all documents in its petitions for the records of the minor plaintiffs, hampering the ability to mount a full defense, according to the county attorneys’ court papers. The expedited trial motion should be denied or delayed until the plaintiffs’ lawyers establish that Noah’s siblings have standing to pursue their wrongful death and survival claims, the county lawyers further argue in their court papers.
In court papers filed May 17, lawyers for the plaintiffs say the case should go to trial in early 2023 for the benefit of Noah’s siblings, who are ages 2, 4 and 9. The attorneys state in their court papers that the Code of Civil Procedure gives trial preference to any litigant in a personal injury or wrongful death case who is under 14 years old unless the court finds that the party “does not have a substantial interest in the case as a whole.”
Noah’s parents, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr. and Ursula Elaine Juarez, were ages 28 and 26, respectively, when the lawsuit was filed and are still awaiting trial in their criminal case. They were indicted in January 2020 on one count each of murder and torture in their son’s death. The indictment also charges the boy’s father with one count each of assault on a child causing death and sexual penetration of a child under 10, with the indictment alleging that the latter crime occurred on the same day the boy was attacked.
A hearing on the trial preference motion is scheduled for June 14.