CHICAGO DAILY LAW BULLETIN

by John Flynn Rooney, staff writer

A $12 million structured settlement was reached in a lawsuit alleging three children were physically abused by a foster mother selected by The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, lawyers for the children said Friday.

The settlement is expected to approach $55 million over the children's lifetimes, said Michael T. Mertz.  Mertz and Christopher T. Hurley, both principals with Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. PC in Chicago, represented the children.

Beginning in 1995, a boy and his two sisters, ages 1, 2 and 3 years old, were placed in foster care with services provided by Catholic Charities, Hurley said on Friday.  The parents of the children were drug addicts.

The children were removed from the foster home on May 7, 1997, after the boy went to school with a bruise on his face and recent cigarette burns on his legs and lower body, according to Hurley.  Doctors reported that one of the sisters suffered burns on both her hands after they were forcibly placed in boiling water, he added.

The children, now 14, 13 and 11, live with their maternal grandmother in Hempstead, NY, Hurley said.

"You're taking three kids who have probably had the worst luck I have ever witnessed with any of my clients and we are going to change their lives and give them a chance at normal lives," Hurley said.  The grandmother, Ethel Scott, and the three children are expected to relocate to the Chicago area.

The lawsuit maintained that Catholic Charities placed the children in the care of a nonqualified foster parent, failed to properly investigate the foster home and did not conduct sufficient home visits.

Catholic Charities prepared the foster care licensing information and provided it to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which licenses foster parents, James C. Geoly, a lawyer representing Catholic Charities, said.

"Catholic Charities has a reputation for providing very high quality foster care and our experts were prepared to testify that Catholic Charities definitely acted at, or above, the standard of care for foster care in this case," said Geoly, a partner with Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella PC in Chicago.

Ira M. Levin and Christina Y. Nelson, with Burke, Warren, also represented Catholic Charities.

The settlement agreement was reached Wednesday night following a mediation session conducted by Geoffrey L. Gifford, a principal of Pavalon, Gifford, Laatsch & Marino in Chicago, Hurley said.  Ethel Scott etc. v. The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, No. 01 L 15741.

The case had an early September trial date.