Foster care agency hit with $5.35M verdict in child sex-abuse case

A Montgomery County-based foster care agency has been hit with a $5.35 million verdict for repeatedly placing a young girl in a home where she was sexually abused.

A Philadelphia jury this week found Presbyterian Children's Village negligent and reckless, and ordered the agency to pay $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages to the girl.

"This verdict is a message that child safety must be protected," one of the girl's attorneys, Nadeem Bezar, of the Kline & Specter law firm, said in a statement. "This is a message from the jury to PCV and all foster care agencies that they must be diligent." 

The girl was first molested in November 2012, when the then-7-year-old was placed in foster care because of an unsafe home environment, according to her attorneys.

The Philadelphia Department of Human Services had contracted with the Village, which placed the girl in the Philadelphia home of Walter and Deborah Scott for three days that month before moving her to another home, the lawyers said.

The new foster mother then reported that she suspected the child had been sexually abused.

The girl was placed in the Scott home in February 2013 for a second time and was abused again, her attorneys said.

Walter Scott has pleaded guilty to charges that include involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of children and rape, in cases involving the girl in the civil suit and two other victims, according to court records. He is serving a 10- to 20-year sentence in state prison, records show. 

The lawsuit against the Rosemont foster care agency was filed in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in November 2013.

"This has been a very emotional case for all parties involved, and we have tremendous sympathy for the plaintiff," the agency said in a statement Friday. "While we have the utmost respect for the judicial system and the decision of the jury in this case, we also respectfully disagree with several elements of the verdict and will be evaluating our options moving forward. As an organization, we are steadfastly committed to keeping our focus on the safety and well-being of those entrusted to our care."

The Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com do not identify the victims of sexual abuse.

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