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Sedgwick County judge dismisses lawsuit accusing state agency of failing to protect toddler

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WICHITA, Kansas — A Sedgwick County judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing a state agency of failing to protect a toddler before she was killed.

Sedgwick County District Judge William Woolley said in his ruling that Kansas law "does not impose on child welfare agencies an independent duty" in the investigation of child abuse. And because there is no duty, or legal obligation, there can be no claim of negligence against the state child-protection agency, the judge wrote.

Woolley's ruling last week was in response to a lawsuit brought after the death of 18-month-old Jayla Haag, who died in 2012 with injuries that included brain swelling, bleeding around her eyes and teeth that had been forcibly removed. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the child's father, claimed DCF was told Jayla was being abused and did nothing to protect her.

The state had sought the dismissal of the lawsuit.

DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed said in a statement Friday that the agency appreciates the judge's "careful consideration of this case," The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/UvEhBe).

"Any death of a child is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to those mourning the loss of a child. DCF takes seriously its responsibility to protect children," Freed said.

Jayla was living with her mother, Alyssa Haag, and her mother's boyfriend in El Dorado at the time of her death. Alyssa Haag, 24, was sentenced for involuntary manslaughter-reckless and is serving time in a Topeka prison, with an earliest possible release date in March 2015.

Randy Rathbun, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said he plans to appeal the judge's ruling.

Jayla's paternal grandmother, Wendi Vittitow, said laws should be changed in order to better protect children.

"Because there's going to be more babies like Jayla," the grandmother said. "There's going to be more tragedies."


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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