Crime - Sacto 911

Jurors again hit Davis group home, this time with $7.5 million verdict in punitive damages

Photo illustration
Photo illustration

Sacramento jurors hit troubled Davis group home EMQ FamiliesFirst with $7.5 million in punitive damages, just days after awarding more than $4.5 million to the family of a minor who was severely neglected and sexually assaulted while in its care in 2012 and 2013, starting when he was 11 years old, plaintiff’s attorneys announced Friday.

“(EMQ) FamiliesFirst’s neglect was apparent across the board in nearly every aspect of his care,” said plaintiff’s attorney Sean Laird in a statement following the verdict before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang.

Jurors on Wednesday unanimously found EMQ FamiliesFirst engaged in fraud, malice and negligence.

EMQ, the panel decided, had intentionally inflicted emotional distress and concealed information from the minor and his family and that its conduct caused the child “severe emotional distress,” in granting the multimillion dollar award for past non-economic damages and future medical care.

The boy has never fully recovered from the trauma, Laird said, and remains institutionalized.

Jurors moved on to the punitive verdict after Wednesday’s findings of wrongdoing.

Laird argued that the boy’s well-meaning parents sought help from EMQ for their emotionally disturbed adopted son, only to learn that he and other similarly troubled children were left to fend for themselves without individual therapy or other services.

Laird described instances of children wandering unsupervised from the group home, multiple sexual assaults of children who walked away from the campus and complaints by child welfare officials of understaffing and inadequate supervision of children.

Laird said on one fateful night in May 2013, the boy, then 12, but with the functioning ability of a small child, was sexually assaulted by another minor in a restroom stall during a night of roaming through the streets of Davis with other underage residents.

“The facility did nothing to notify the boy’s parents that their child was once again unsupervised off-campus in exceedingly dangerous circumstances,” Laird said in the statement. “They lived less than an hour away. They were never called.”

State Department of Social Services officials revoked the group home’s license shortly after the May 2013 incident in June of that year. In July 2013, Yolo County pulled the home’s mental health certification.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith