Suit Proceeds Over Placement of Special Needs Children

, New York Law Journal


Three children in silhouette

Vitaliano noted the agencies' arguments that their policies were reasonable for the time. Moreover, the defendants said Leekin "consistently presented as an excellent parent" with credentials that "would have fooled any reasonable investigator."

"And, it may be so," said Vitaliano. "This is a classic disputed issue of fact."

From 1986 to 1994, the plaintiffs were removed from their homes and subsequently sent to Leekin.

Eight were sent via the agencies SCO Family of Services, HeartShare Human Services of New York and the now-shuttered St. Joseph Services for Children and Families.

Leekin and the children moved to Florida in 1998.

Southern District prosecutors said Leekin banked $1.68 million in subsidies for her foster care and adoption of the special needs children while subjecting them to abuse.

In 2008, Leekin was sentenced to almost 11 years for her scheme.

In 2009, a Florida state judge handed down a 20-year sentence for counts including aggravated child abuse, running concurrently with the federal sentence.

The agency defendants have argued that the federal civil rights claims and the state common law negligence claims were time-barred in the case of three plaintiffs over the age of 21.

In New York, the statute of limitations on both a §1983 claim and a negligence claim is three years, tolled until age 18 for minors. When those claims accrued was "hotly disputed," said Vitaliano.

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