COLUMBUS, Ohio — A lawsuit claiming Hamilton County Job and Family Services and its caseworkers were "engaged in reckless misconduct" in the murder of a 2-year-old girl can move forward after a ruling on Tuesday by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Glen Bates and Andrea Bradley were convicted of murdering their daughter Glenara Bates in March 2015. The maternal grandmother, Desena Bradley, filed suit against Hamilton County JFS and the caseworkers involved in her granddaughter's case.
Bradley's complaint alleged the caseworkers behaved in a wanton and reckless manner, ignoring the mother's history of abusing her other children, failing to properly investigate a report of abuse from doctors and staff at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and overlooked clear signs of abuse during a visit to her home a month before her death.
"Ohio law generally provides political subdivisions and their employees with immunity from lawsuits and liability," the court wrote. "That immunity is not absolute, however.
"Consequently, while (Desena) Bradley's complaint could perhaps have been more clearly written, we conclude that it did all that was required at the pleading stage by putting the caseworkers on notice of the claims against them."
After Bradley filed a complaint, the county defendants and case workers filed motions for judgment arguing they were immune from such lawsuits because of protections given to government workers.
The county and caseworkers won at the trial court level while the First District Court of Appeals decision was split. At issue was if Bradley as the plaintiff was subject to a higher pleading standard, meaning she would have to present more to the court than a plea to move forward. The lower courts ruled in favor of Hamilton County and the caseworkers, but the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the ruling.
Justices Maureen O'Connor, Michael Donnelly, Melody Stewart and Jennifer Brunner concurred, along with Pat DeWine, who concurred in judgment only. Sharon Kennedy concurred with DeWine. With the court ruling against the defendant's motions, the case was remanded back to trial court, where it will move forward.