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County Must Pay Foster Child $2.2 Million

February 27, 1992|HECTOR TOBAR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A girl who at the age of 3 was deliberately burned by her grandmother with scalding water has been awarded $2.2 million by a jury in a lawsuit against Los Angeles County and employees of the Department of Children's Services.

The Los Angeles Superior Court suit charged that county social workers failed to adequately monitor the girl after she was placed in the care of Dorothy Bullock in May, 1987.

Bullock, 60, has been diagnosed with mental illness, said R. Brian Kramer, attorney for Jimmiee Scott, now 7. "She's a beautiful little girl who was just maimed," Kramer said. "She has scars she'll never recover from."

The jury on Monday agreed with the suit's contention that county social workers failed to make monthly visits to the home, as required by state law. Bullock was convicted on three counts of felony child abuse and child endangerment and is serving a nine-year sentence in state prison.

Louis Aguilar, principal deputy county counsel, said the county will probably appeal the decision. He said county social workers did not know that Bullock had any history of mental illness.

John Collins, a private attorney who represented the county, said the Department of Children's Services was not obliged to investigate the woman because she is a relative of the girl.

The child was placed in her grandmother's care after a court found the girl's mother an unfit parent, Kramer said. The child was admitted to a hospital with third-degree burns on both legs after Bullock lowered her into a tub of hot water in Bullock's Los Angeles home. As a result of her injuries, the girl had a toe amputated.

Zsa Zsa Maxwell, a social worker named in the suit, testified that she visited Bullock's home only four times in a year before the scalding.

The county Department of Children's Services has come under fire in recent years for failing to adequately supervise the children it places in foster care. In 1990, state officials took over all licensing of foster homes from the agency, after revelations of numerous abuses in foster homes.

The jury award will be paid to the girl and her aunt, now her legal guardian.

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