Local mother falsely accused of child abuse gets $3.1m settlement; still doesn't have custody of son

A jury finds social workers with the Department of Children and Family Services intentionally and willfully seized a child from his mother without a warrant and did so with malice. Now, LA County has to pay Rafaelina Duval $3.1 million dollars.

It was on November 3, 2009 when Duval's baby Ryan was removed from her custody. He was only 15 months old. DCFS social workers accused Duval of general neglect and willfully and intentionally starving her child. Baby Ryan was taken without a warrant. Attorney Shawn McMillan says, "The law is very clear and they get training on this, you can not seize a child from its parents unless there's an emergency."

Not only was baby Ryan taken away without a warrant, social workers ordered no reunification because they were concerned Duval had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. They claimed Duval could intentionally make her child sick to gain attention. They based it on the fact, that Ryan was small for his age and Duval would take him to doctors hoping they could find what was wrong with him. Duval was only allowed monitored visitation --- an hour an half every two weeks.

Seven years have passed and Duval still doesn't have custody of her child. But she's never stopped fighting for Ryan who is now 8 years old. This week, a jury found DCFS social workers intentionally and willfully seized her child without a warrant and did so with malice. Duval was awarded $3.1 million. An additional amount is expected for punitive damages and that will be coming directly from the social workers themselves. Duval says, "No money can ever satisfy how I feel."

We contacted DCFS, officials in that department told us they can not comment on the specifics of the case.

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