August 31, 2017
A New Jersey family has petitioned the state’s highest court to restore a $102 million judgment their grandson received after suffering extensive abuse as a result of a beating from his father. He was less than 12 months old at the time. The judgment was awarded against the child welfare system for their failure to protect the child, who is now 8.
The 2009 beating left Jadiel Velesquez brain damaged, blind and unable to walk. As a result, he requires around-the-clock care while residing with his grandparents and legal guardians, Noemi Escobar and Jose Betances.
Jadiel was awarded $166 million in the largest personal injury verdict the state has ever seen. A state judge later reduced the amount to $102 million, stipulating that it be used for future medical bills.
After being hospitalized with bruises on his cheeks and blood in both eyes, Jadiel’s grandmother repeatedly requested that child protection services remove the child from his father’s care. Despite discovering a crack pipe in his diaper bag, doctors released Jadiel back to his parents with a finding of suspected child abuse.
A plan that prevented the boy’s father, Joshua Velasquez, from being alone with him was implemented by a Division of Youth and Family Services caseworker. The plan expired by July 16, 2009, when Jadiel was left alone with his father in their Jersey City home for fifteen minutes.
The severe beating left the baby with permanent cognitive harm and devastating physical injuries. Joshua had a history of criminal behavior and violent outbursts. A 2013 jury agreed that the state’s child protection agency failed to protect Jadiel from his father.
Despite the judgment, an appellate court decision overturned the verdict in April 2017, citing the baby’s injuries were caused by his father and that the state workers investigating the abuse acted in accordance with state rules and in good faith.
A three-panel jury will decide if the ruling is fair. Spokesman Lee Moore from the Attorney General’s Office, which represents state agencies in civil lawsuits, declined to comment.
John Rosenbaum is a Personal Injury and Workers Compensation attorney with decades of experience serving Orange County. If you or a loved one has won a personal injury award, you still might have to continue to seek justice if a higher court overturns the ruling. Contact our lawyers for help in fighting for your rights.