A judge Thursday found that the siblings 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 — have standing to bring their current wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County.
Evangelina Hernandez, the great-grandmother of the late Noah Cuatro, brought the suit in July 2020 on behalf of herself and Noah’s sister and two brothers.
After hearing lengthy arguments on Thursday, Oct. 27, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter A. Hernandez, who is unrelated to Evangelina Hernandez, ruled that the minor plaintiffs can move forward with their wrongful death and survival causes of action, but that the failure to warn claim asserted by the trio and their great-grandmother will have to be shored up for it to remain part of the case.
In their court papers, lawyers for the county maintained that the siblings would only have standing to bring the suit if both their parents, who also were Noah’s father and mother, are found to have acted “intentionally and feloniously.”
Noah’s parents, Jose Maria Cuatro Jr. and Ursula Elaine Juarez, were ages 28 and 26, respectively, when the lawsuit was filed and are still awaiting trial in their criminal case. They were indicted in January 2020 on one count each of murder and torture in Noah’s death. The indictment also charges Noah’s father with one count each of assault on a child causing death and sexual penetration of a child under 10, with the indictment alleging that the latter crime occurred on the same day the boy was attacked. Noah’s mother was additionally charged with one count of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death.
But the judge said that in the motion before him Thursday, all “properly pleaded allegations” were presumed to be true. He noted in his ruling that the lawsuit “explicitly asserts that Noah was murdered by his parents.” Thus, the parents cannot bring a wrongful death or a survival lawsuit, giving Noah’s siblings the right to do so, according to the judge. However, the judge did find that Evangelina Hernandez was not a guardian for the children, so he dismissed her wrongful death claim within the suit.
The events leading to the potential involvement of Noah’s parents in their son’s death occurred when they reported a drowning in their family pool in the 1200 block of East Avenue S around 4 p.m. July 5, 2019. But the boy’s injuries later raised suspicions about how he died and medical staff found the trauma he had suffered inconsistent with drowning.
Noah was taken first to Palmdale Regional Medical Center and then to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he was pronounced dead July 6, 2019. His death occurred after multiple reports of abuse had already been made to the county Department of Children and Family Services, according to the suit.
“Instead of protecting Noah and his siblings, DCFS continued to place the children with their abusive parents, where the children continued to be abused over the course of several years,” the suit alleges.
After Noah’s death, DCFS social workers made threats against Hernandez “in an attempt to silence her,” the lawsuit alleges. They told Hernandez that if she made any public statements about Noah*s case and/or potential lawsuits, she would lose her request for guardianship of her other three great- grandchildren and would never see them again, the suit states.
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