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Jury will Decide Damages in Lawsuit Against DCFS Case Workers

Jury will Decide Damages in Lawsuit Against DCFS Case Workers

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LAYTON, Utah (AP) -- A Utah couple is seeking monetary compensation from the state for missteps made when their son was removed from their care in 1999.

Connie and James Roska are suing Shirley Morrison, Colleen Lasater and Melinda Sneddon, the three social workers for the Division of Child and Family Services who took Rusty Roska from his parent's home.

A 2nd District Court jury will hear arguments in the case beginning Monday.

The Roskas are seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering experienced by their family. A neuropsychologist who recently examined the family said Rusty Roska, now 21, and his parents have "a variety of symptoms" of post traumatic stress disorder as a result.

Last year, a panel of three judges from Denver's 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the case workers violated state law in taking the boy and could be held personally libel.

Connie Roska's aggressive legal efforts after 1999 changed state laws that let case workers remove children from their homes without a warrant.

Roska's attorney Steven Russell said the changes won't mean anything unless the state pays for its mistakes.

"It doesn't really matter what the law says if people aren't going to obey the law," Russell said. "If they (Department of Child and Family Services) are not afraid of being sued, then we're back to where we started."

Acting on a report from school officials, DCFS removed Rusty Roska and said the boy was a victim of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, a condition in which a parent acts as if a child is ill in order to get doctors' attention.

At the time, Rusty Roska had lost 70 pounds, was unable to feed himself and was in a wheelchair. He spent eight days in state custody before a judge ordered him returned to his parents.

The courts later found that the state's reasons for suspecting the Roskas of abuse were not substantial enough to take the boy without a court hearing.

New laws now require a hearing before any detention.

Morrison, Lasater and Sneddon are represented by the Utah attorney general's office. Morrison no longer works for DCFS.

Paul Murphy, spokesman for the attorney general, declined comment saying it would be irresponsible to discuss the case because it might taint the jury pool.


Information from: Standard-Examiner

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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