Relatives of a 4-year-old Palmdale boy whose 2019 death was originally reported as a drowning -—but later led to a criminal indictment of his parents—are seeking a speedy trial of their wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County due to the ages of the minor plaintiffs.
The Pomona Superior Court lawsuit stems from the death of Noah Cuatro. His great-grandmother, Evangelina Hernandez, brought the case in July 2020 on behalf of herself and the boy’s sister and two brothers, all minors.
Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services was named as an additional defendant, but was dismissed from the case in January. Hathaway-Sycamores knew of or suspected the abuse and misconduct occurring in Noah’s home after the boy was sent to the agency by the county Department of Children and Family Services for mental health services, but failed to report the abuse, the suit alleged.
However, the judge found that while the case was “certainly tragic,” there was no evidence that any alleged negligence on the part of Hathaway-Sycamores was the “legal or proximate cause” of the boy’s death. The plaintiffs have appealed the ruling.
In court papers filed Tuesday, lawyers for the plaintiffs say the case should go to trial in early 2023 for the benefit of Noah’s siblings, who are ages 2, 4 and 9. The attorneys state in their court papers that the Code of Civil Procedure gives trial preference to any litigant in a personal injury or wrongful death case who is under 14 years old unless the court finds that the party “does not have a substantial interest in the case as a whole.”
As time passes, it will be difficult for the young siblings to recall events, the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ court papers additionally state.
A hearing on the trial preference motion is scheduled for June 14.
Noah’s parents, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr., and Ursula Elaine Juarez, were ages 28 and 26, respectively, when the lawsuit was filed. They were indicted in January 2020 on one count each of murder and torture in their son’s death.