- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - A federal jury has awarded more than $31 million to a northwestern Indiana couple who sued the state after being wrongfully accused of causing their daughter’s death.

Roman and Lynnette Finnegan of Knox won the verdict this week followed a three-week trial in U.S. District Court in Hammond, one of their attorneys, Richard Waples, told The (Munster) Times.

The Finnegans’ 14-year-old daughter, Jessica, was found dead in their home in 2005. The Indiana Department of Child Services and Indiana State Police suspected the Finnegans caused the girl’s death and ultimately took custody of the couple’s three other children and arrested the couple, Waples said.

It was later determined the girl, who had a congenital heart defect and suffered from a seizure disorder, died as a result of her doctor prescribing too much of a medication that caused bleeding in her brain, court records said.

The couple’s suit named several employees of the Indiana Department of Child Services and an Indiana State Police detective.



The Attorney General’s Office will confer with its clients about whether to appeal the verdict or seek to reduce the award, office spokesman Bryan Corbin said Wednesday.

The case was “inherently complicated; and jurors had to listen to difficult evidence,” Corbin said in a statement.

The state employees who investigated the death “acted reasonably under the circumstances, based on the information available to them at the time, and consistent with the State’s duty to protect children and enforce laws for public safety,” Corbin said.

The award, while large, is $70 million less than the total that the couple’s lawyers had asked for in their final arguments, he said. The jury denied the couple’s request for punitive damages and awarded compensatory damages only.

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