August 24, 2023Share
Justice for Kids Obtains Justice for Six-Month-Old Victim and her Father with $4.5M Verdict
In our latest firm win, Christopher Nevarez, father of the late 6-month-old Makenzie Nevarez, was awarded $4.5 million in damages in a wrongful death case involving the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), marking a significant milestone in our commitment to justice for children. Justice for Kids partners and co-founders, Justin Grosz and Stacie Schmerling, successfully argued that BSO failed in its duty to protect Makenzie, resulting in her tragic death.
The case revolved around allegations that investigators from BSO’s Child Protective Investigations Section did not adequately respond to clear signs of child abuse. Makenzie was hospitalized multiple times, over several months, for separate injuries occurring in her mother’s care. When a concerned emergency room physician discovered multiple broken bones at different healing stages in the non-mobile child, which the mother could not explain, BSO became involved and was responsible for investigating and protecting Makenzie.
Despite obvious, and objective, signs of child abuse, BSO’s Child Protective Investigator failed to perform fundamental functions, including interviewing Makenzie’s father, ER physicians, her pediatricians, or any other witnesses, including potential perpetrator Juan Santos – with whom Makenzie and her mother were living when the majority of the injuries were inflicted. In fact, investigators had not, and could not, even rule out Makenzie’s mother as a perpetrator. The only interview investigators conducted was with Makenzie’s mother, and, after the brief interview, the investigator took her at her word, and told the hospital it was safe to allow her to take Makenzie back to the home she shared with Santos. Eleven days later, with no true protective action or investigation taken, Makenzie was rushed to North Broward Medical Center with catastrophic and life-threatening injuries, from which she could not recover. Ultimately, Juan Santos was charged and convicted of aggravated child abuse and manslaughter.
At the civil trial, BSO was determined to have been negligent, bearing 58% of the responsibility, and representing long overdue public accountability for Makenzie’s death and significant compensation for Christopher’s loss. This landmark case is a harsh reminder of the critical responsibility entrusted to child protective agencies. It is a sobering call to action for authorities to thoroughly work toward ensuring the safety of at-risk children.
While the loss of a child is incomprehensible, the jury’s verdict holds BSO accountable – legally and financially – and serves as a warning to other child protection services, while providing some measure of closure for Mr. Nevarez. It is also an affirmation of our firm’s commitment to fight for the rights of vulnerable children who have been victimized and to seek justice for those who cannot protect themselves.
Justice for Kids
Justice for Kids is a division of Kelley Kronenberg, P.A., focusing on the representation of children who have been severely injured due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment – whether intentional or accidental. The team fights for the rights and protection of vulnerable children, aiming to hold those responsible accountable, whether they are individuals, corporations, institutions, or governmental agencies.
The team is led by dedicated professionals who have devoted their careers to legal advocacy for children. Comprised of seasoned attorneys like Howard Talenfeld, Stacie Schmerling and Justin Grosz, they rely upon their extensive experience in children’s rights advocacy, child welfare and foster care systems. Their collective expertise ensures they can provide top-quality legal services to protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.
Justice for Kids is a beacon of hope for child victims and their families. Its aim is not only to achieve justice for past wrongs but also to drive systemic change for the improvement of child welfare and protection of children in the future.