- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - A new Oahu Family Court rule helps ensure children injured in foster care get legal help to determine whether to pursue damages.

The new tort protocol was implemented this week for Oahu’s Family Court. Neighbor island family courts are expected to adopt the new procedures as well.

Until now, the courts had no formal system for dealing with such cases, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://ow.ly/GpzUu ) reported Wednesday.

The protocol requires those involved in the Child Protective Services system to notify the court if they are aware a child has suffered physical or psychological injury that could be grounds for a lawsuit.

The court could then appoint an independent person to investigate. That person would then recommend if a legal expert should be appointed for the child. Ultimately, it would be up to the children whether a lawsuit is filed.

“This is a sea change in Hawaii for children’s rights,” said paralegal Steve Lane, who co-authored a similar proposal that was rejected by a Hawaii Supreme Court advisory committee. “It’s a big, big deal.”

The protocol was developed by Judge R. Mark Browning, who heads Oahu’s Family Court, with feedback from others in the Child Protective Services system. He said the idea is to prevent cases from falling through the cracks.

Critics of Hawaii’s foster system said some cases fell through the cracks, leaving children with no means for pursuing damages, especially when the harm was due to the negligence of the state or another party and the statute of limitations had expired.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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