Hearing set in infant death lawsuit
Published 10:25 am Monday, February 8, 2016
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
COLUMBIANA – A Shelby County judge has set a hearing in a lawsuit against the Shelby County Department of Human Resources after delaying action on sealing a file related to an infant who died in a 2014 vehicle crash and fire in Alabaster.
Shelby County Judge Hewitt “Sonny” Conwill will hold a hearing on the lawsuit at 7 a.m. at the Shelby County Courthouse on June 4, according to Shelby County Civil Court records.
Conwill set the hearing in late January a few days after delaying his decision on DHR’s request to seal the file. During a Jan. 19 hearing, Conwill said he planned to closely examine the motion before making a decision.
The Shelby County Department of Human Resources filed the motion to seal the file in early January, according to court documents. The hearing is the latest development in the civil case, which is tied to a vehicle crash in Alabaster on Feb. 28, 2014.
According to the Alabaster Police Department, officers arrived on the scene of the crash near the intersection of Alabama 119 and Kent Dairy Road to find Sommer Nicole Wilford, Allen’s mother, “standing outside the vehicle that was engulfed in flames.”
After Alabaster firefighters extinguished the fire, they discovered the body of 19-month-old Allen inside the vehicle. Officers then arrested Wilford, 24, of Maylene, and charged her with one criminal count of reckless murder, which is still pending against her in Shelby County Circuit Court.
Wilford currently is undergoing a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation on the criminal count.
Alta Renee Allen, the paternal grandmother of Jayden Allen, filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the DHR on Dec. 10, 2015, claiming the department placed the infant in the custody of its “drug abuser” mother. The lawsuit names DHR Director Kim Mashego and DHR employees Lashandra Bell-Moore and Lorie McCullough as defendants.
The lawsuit claims the DHR contributed to the Feb. 28, 2014, death of Jayden Allen, by granting the infant’s biological parents, including Wilford, custody of the child in August 2013.
According to Alta Allen’s lawsuit, which was filed by the Birmingham-based Fuston, Petway and French law firm, the DHR removed Jayden Allen from the custody of his mother and father and placed him in Alta Allen’s custody “due to confirmed reports of abuse and/or neglect.”
In August 2013, the DHR placed Jayden Allen back in the care of his parents. The lawsuit claims Wilford “was known by the defendants to be a severe drug abuser,” and claimed Wilford was “under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol” at the time of the vehicle crash ending the infant’s life.
The lawsuit claims the defendants “negligently and/or wantonly failed to conduct mandatory home visits to ensure the continuous safety of Jayden Brodie Allen (while) in the care and custody of his parents,” and claimed DHR “placed (the infant) in a position of imminent danger that he would not have otherwise faced” when it placed Jayden Allen in the custody of his parents.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and a monetary award from the defendants.