Jury awards $45M to estate of slain suburban Chicago boy
CHICAGO (AP) — A Cook County jury has awarded $45 million to the estate of a 2-year-old suburban Chicago boy who was beaten to death in 2011.
The estate of Lavandis Hudson sued Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, alleging the nonprofit should not have given the boy’s mother, Marles Blackman, custody of him. Lavandis was taken into protective custody after his premature birth when cocaine was found in his system.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was first contacted by doctors who delivered Lavandis at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island. According to the lawsuit, a DCFS investigation determined Blackman had two previous children who had drugs and alcohol in their systems when born, and none of her five children were in her care. Blackman also had an extensive criminal history that included assault and prostitution.
After Lavandis was placed into foster care, Lutheran Social Services began counseling and evaluating his parents. In September 2010, the social service organization recommended Lavandis be placed with his mother. He returned to the home in October 2010.
In June 2011, Lavandis was taken to an emergency room by his mother who said he had fallen two days earlier. The medical staff found evidence of abuse and contacted DCFS, but nothing was done. The boy was dead three weeks later.
His mother was charged with first-degree murder after an autopsy found multiple blunt-force trauma injuries. Court records show the case against Blackman is pending.
In a statement on Tuesday’s verdict to award the estate, Lutheran Social Services said it grieves the death of Lavandis and continues to be vigilant in advocating for and protecting vulnerable children.
The lawsuit contended that while Lutheran Social Services didn’t conduct a child endangerment risk assessment, it had extensive contact with the family and reunited the boy with his mother.
Lavandis’ estate includes his father, Herbert Hudson, and several siblings. Hudson was estranged from the mother. After the boy’s death, he told reporters he begged the DCFS to release his son to him shortly before he was returned to his mother.
“They gave him to the wrong parent,” Hudson, of Blue Island, said at the time. “If they had given me my son, he’d still be alive today.”
The estate’s attorney, Jay P. Deratany, told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that had Lutheran Social Services done the required risk assessment, it would have seen signs of abuse.