October 12, 2015
$31 Million Awarded to Family in Federal Civil Rights Case
HAMMOND, Ind. – On October 6, 2015, a federal court jury in Hammond, Indiana, handed down verdicts totaling $31,350,000 against employees of the Indiana Department of Child Services and a State Police Detective for violating the civil rights of Roman and Lynnette Finnegan and their children.
Ron Waicukauski, lead trial counsel for the Finnegan family, stated following the verdict:
“The defendants in this case are public officials who were supposed to be protecting children from abuse but instead, became the abusers. They recklessly removed children from their home, instigated criminal charges, and substantiated abuse and neglect causing death when no such actions were justified. They caused enormous suffering for every member of this family which continues to this day. Although no amount of money can fully compensate for the nightmare caused by these defendants, this verdict makes a strong statement that public officials will be held accountable for such misconduct.”
The case arose in 2006 when DCS employees wrongly accused Roman and Lynnette Finnegan of child abuse and neglect causing the death of their 14-year-old daughter. Prescription errors by the family doctor were the actual cause. This was quickly demonstrated by Heather Kirkwood, a Seattle lawyer, but DCS and ISP officials continued to persecute this family for years thereafter.
This verdict compensates Roman and Lynnette Finnegan and their three children, Johnathon, Tabitha and Katelynn, for violations of their rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Among other things, these violations caused the children to lose their parents for nine months, for Roman to lose his job, for the family to lose its home and many of their possessions, and for Roman and Lynnette to be wrongfully stigmatized in their community as child killers.
The Finnegans were represented in this trial by a team of lawyers led by Ron Waicukauski of Price Waicukauski Joven & Catlin, LLC and included Rich Waples of Waples and Hanger, Indianapolis, Kevin Tankersley of Winamac, Indiana and Heather Kirkwood of Seattle, WA.