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Judge Allows Child Abuse Lawsuit Against U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Proceed

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker recently announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over a child abuse case may proceed.

Earlier this week, a federal judge announced a lawsuit filed by an Orono mother may proceed. The mother, Alexandria Orduna, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last June after her ex-boyfriend allegedly severely injured her baby and the child’s medical providers allegedly “failed to tell her about the signs of abuse.” As a result, Orduna is “demanding payment for the 2 ½-year-old’s ongoing medical care.”

Department of Health and Human Services Seal; image courtesy of U.S. Government via Wikimedia Commons

Back on January 10, 2019, Orduna’s son, who is blind, “suffered brain injuries as a result of a skull fracture allegedly inflicted by Cyree Hansley, 26, of North Carolina,” court documents claim. To make matters worse, the suit claims “medical personnel at the Brewer Medical Center didn’t tell her about signs of abuse…and that medical providers didn’t report the suspected abuse to Maine authorities as required by law.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Eiler, who represents the federal DHHS, has pushed back against the claims and recently filed a motion to have the complaint dismissed. She argued, “a private health care provider can’t be held liable in a medical malpractice suit for failing to report suspected child abuse to authorities.” Eiler added, “medical personnel have no duty in Maine law to protect a patient from harm inflicted by a third party — in this case, Orduna’s ex-boyfriend.”

Fortunately for Orduna, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker rejected the motion and said “the crux of the lawsuit was a breach of the standard of care for medical providers.” He added that, in the early stages of litigation, he “accepts the inference that an ordinarily competent provider could be governed by a duty to inform the parent of a minor child that a differential diagnosis includes physical abuse.”

Shortly after the Judge’s ruling, Orduna’s attorney, Alexis Chardon, said:

“Judge Walker is absolutely correct that one very important standard of care we allege is that the [physician’s assistant] should have told Alex that child abuse was on her baby’s differential diagnosis list, especially when he presented in clinic with unexplained bruises on both ears…If the PA had done so, Alex would absolutely have protected her baby from further abuse.”

What now? Well, for now, Orduna and her legal team just have to wait for the government to respond to her complaint. As for Hansely, there is a pending criminal case against him. In May 2019, he was indicted by the grand jury on two counts of aggravated assault and one count of assault on a child less than 6 years old. He is currently free on bail.

Sources:

Judge lets lawsuit go forward claiming Brewer clinic didn’t tell mother of baby’s abuse

Mother sues over clinic’s alleged failure to report signs of baby’s abuse

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