$8.5 million verdict vs. County in Ireland case

February 22, 2013 4:16:38 PM PST
Seth Ireland's murder already forced a review of policies at Fresno County's Child Protective Services and now, it'll cost the county millions of dollars.

Ireland had just turned ten years old when he died four years ago from a beating delivered by his mother's boyfriend.

But Ireland's father claimed CPS could've prevented the murder and a jury agreed. Joe Hudson says he tried everything he could legally do to get custody of his child, but he ran into brick walls.

Meanwhile, he says CPS was ignoring the warning signs that his son was in danger. Hudson hugged his attorney so hard he lost his glasses after hearing the jury had punished Fresno County to the tune of $8.5 million for its role in letting his son be murdered.

The two men told me the case wasn't about the money, but the message.

"We took this case on originally to shed some light on how we believe CPS practices in our county," said Hudson's attorney, Warren Paboojian.

"Hopefully this'll stop any other children from being brutalized and abused," Hudson said.

CPS had received at least four reports of abuse to Seth Ireland between August 2008 and the day Lebaron Vaughn beat him into a coma in December.

An agent talked to the family a couple times and had a couple open referrals.

But she never talked to the family after a school principal's report, which included information about the black eye Seth had in his school picture.

And she never talked to them after Vaughn and Seth's mother, Rena Ireland, tried to drop off Seth and his half-brother at the Fresno County jail the day after Christmas.

A deputy called CPS that day and Hudson's attorney said that's the type of call the agency needs to take more seriously from here on out.

"I'm talking about emergency, immediate responses, you know, where they have to go out and investigate," Paboojian said. "They need to start investigating a little closer, at least they should've in Seth's case."

Hudson called the big judgment justice for his son, but said no amount of money could fill the hole left in his heart by the loss of Seth.

"I mean, it's something you live with the rest of your life," he said. "I mean, it shouldn't have happened. It should not have happened. CPS failed." The jury found the county 65% responsible for the damages to Seth's brother, who witnessed his deadly beating, and his father.

Action News talked to county counsel Kevin Briggs Friday afternoon. He told us they're disappointed in the decision and they'll discuss legal options -- including an appeal -- with the Board of Supervisors.


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