The family of Noah Cuatro, the 4-year-old Palmdale boy who died under suspicious circumstances in July, has taken the first step in suing Los Angeles County for more than $10 million.
Two notices of claim were filed August 27, one on behalf of the estate of Noah Cuatro, and the other by Eva Hernandez, Cuatro’s great-grandmother and one-time caregiver. Each claim is requesting damages “in excess of $5 million.”
“The County is clearly liable for the death of Noah Cuatro,” the notices read, detailing the years-long history of interventions by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) leading up to Noah’s death, as well as the May 2019 court-ordered removal that was never carried out.
Noah died on July 6. His parents reported that he had drowned in the pool at their Palmdale apartment complex, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said injuries on the young boy’s body were inconsistent with drowning and opened an investigation into the cause of his death.
The notices of claim allege fraudulent concealment by DCFS social workers, due process violations and wrongful death.
Since 2014, Noah had been the subject of numerous allegations of abuse, and DCFS conducted multiple risk and safety assessments on the family. All four risk assessments ranked Noah’s risk of future abuse or maltreatment as “high” or “very high.” The last assessment was conducted in June of this year, just weeks before Noah died. This time, the risk was determined to be “very high,” and the social worker conducting the assessment made note of “current concerns for the mother’s mental health.”
In May, Steven Ipson, a commissioner with the county’s juvenile dependency court in Lancaster, ordered Noah to be removed from his parents’ care, but DCFS did not execute that order, according to the notices. Noah had previously been placed with Hernandez, his great-grandmother, on several occasions but had been recently reunified with his parents. At least two of Noah’s siblings were previously removed into foster care as well.
Both notices were filed by attorney Brian Claypool, who is also currently representing the family of Anthony Avalos, another young boy killed by his parents in the Antelope Valley. In that lawsuit, Claypool is seeking $50 million in damages for Avalos’ family for the actions of DCFS and one of its contractors.