Montana jury orders state to pay $16M to child abuse victim

GREAT FALLS — A Montana jury has awarded $16.6 million in damages to a victim of child abuse after a judge ruled the state failed to properly investigate abuse allegations before the 6-month-old girl suffered a traumatic brain injury that led to blindness, developmental delays and seizures.

District Court Judge Elizabeth Best in Great Falls found the state was negligent in investigating abuse reported in December 2008, and held the state responsible for the injuries the girl suffered in February 2009. The jury awarded the damages on Nov. 17.

“This is an important moment for our client and represents a measure of justice for her,” Larry Anderson, one of the lawyers for the now 13-year-old girl, said in a statement. “The jury’s verdict also recognizes the importance of properly investigating child abuse complaints.”

The complaint against the state argued that a Division of Child and Family Services caseworker did not assess whether the girl was safe in the custody of her father and his girlfriend and did not remove her from their home after the December 2008 abuse, leading her to suffer preventable abuse.

Alicia Jo Hocter, the girlfriend of the victim’s father, was sentenced in July 2010 to 30 years in prison without

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