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Jurors hit Davis group home with $4.5 million verdict for severe neglect of 11-year-old boy

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Photo illustration Sacramento Bee file

Sacramento jurors awarded more than $4.45 million Tuesday to a former resident of a trouble-plagued children’s group home in Davis, finding the boy was severely neglected by the home’s caregivers while staying at the facility in 2012 and 2013, starting when he was 11 years old.

Jurors in the Sacramento Superior Court trial before Judge Shelleyanne Chang unanimously found EMQ FamiliesFirst was negligent in its care of the minor under its watch, that he was harmed and that FamiliesFirst’s conduct caused the child “severe emotional distress,” according to verdict forms.

Plaintiff’s attorney Sean Laird said in a statement that the boy and others, including employees, were “traumatized” by the way FamiliesFirst “maliciously and oppressively ran its operations.”

Laird in trial briefs alleged the boy had been sexually and physically assaulted while off-campus during what Laird described as a “Clockwork Orange like night” through the streets of Davis in May 2013. Laird also cited therapists who determined that the boy functioned at the level of a very young child.

Jurors found that FamiliesFirst intentionally inflicted emotional distress and concealed information from the minor and his family. They awarded $1.25 million in past non-economic damages as well as more than $3.3 million in damages for future medical care and loss of future earnings.

State Department of Social Services officials yanked the group home’s license in June 2013, and it lost its Yolo County mental health certification in July of that year. The group home had been in free fall, shedding more than 100 employees as it weathered allegations of sexual assaults and unsupervised children walking away from the facility.

Jurors will return Thursday to Sacramento Superior Court to consider awarding punitive damages in the case.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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