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Oklahoma DHS Lawsuit Now A Class Action Lawsuit

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By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- There are new developments in the federal lawsuit against Oklahoma's child welfare system. A federal appeals court in Denver sides with the children's advocacy group that's suing Oklahoma's Department of Human Services.

Children's Rights filed the federal lawsuit against the state two years ago, claiming widespread abuses. Children's Rights argues overloaded case workers don't have time to insure every placement is a safe one.

A Tulsa federal judge decided last spring the lawsuit could move forward as a class action. That means all 10,000 children in state custody would be represented. 

Oklahoma fought that ruling, taking it to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

On Monday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision affirming the district court's ruling that a lawsuit can proceed as a class action.

Read more on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision.

So what does this mean for this lawsuit? That depends on who you talk to. 

The state's attorney is minimizing this, quick to point out the judge can change his mind as the case goes forward.

But the plaintiff's attorney says this is a big victory.

"We need to fix this system. And we couldn't fix the system properly without getting the entire class certified. So this is a big moment for the kids," said Paul DeMurro, plaintiff's attorney.

State's attorney Don Bingham argues the state takes good care of the children in its care and this lawsuit is expensive and unnecessary. 

The plaintiff's attorneys agree that continuing with litigation is expensive and that's why they say the state should settle it and start talking about solutions.

The lawsuit stems from allegations of abuse within Oklahoma's child welfare system. A cracked skull, a fractured leg, split lips and belt-sized bruises -- those are just a few of the abuses described in two reports filed in the federal lawsuit against Oklahoma's Department of Human Services.

Nine children are named in the federal lawsuit against DHS.

Read the response from DHS.

Read the DHS Fact Sheet for February 2010.

Read the response from Children's Rights.

11/12/2009  Related Story: Lawsuit Claims DHS Negligent When Investigating Abuse

11/11/2009  Related Story: Report: Treatment Of Kids In Oklahoma DHS Care 'Immoral'

6/24/2009  Related Story: DHS Challenges Class Action Status Of Suit

2/13/2008  Related Story: Oklahoma DHS Lawsuit Filed


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