If you are concerned about a child being neglected or abused, call Maine’s 24-hour hotline at 800-452-1999 or 711 to speak with a child protective specialist. Calls may be made anonymously. For more information, visit maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/reporting_abuse.
A federal judge will allow a lawsuit filed by an Orono mother whose ex-boyfriend allegedly severely injured her baby to move forward against the boy’s medical providers, whom she claims failed to tell her about signs of abuse.
Last June, Alexandria Orduna, 23, sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Medicaid, demanding payment for the 2 ½-year-old’s ongoing medical care.
The boy is blind and suffered brain injuries on Jan. 10, 2019, as a result of a skull fracture allegedly inflicted by Cyree Hansley, 26, of North Carolina, according to court documents.
In addition to claiming that medical personnel at the Brewer Medical Center didn’t tell her about signs of abuse, Orduna alleged that medical providers didn’t report the suspected abuse to Maine authorities as required by law.
Orduna did not sue the clinic, which is run by Penobscot Community Health Care, directly.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Eiler, who represents the federal DHHS, filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that a private health care provider can’t be held liable in a medical malpratice suit for failing to report suspected child abuse to authorities. She argued that medical personnel have no duty in Maine law to protect a patient from harm inflicted by a third party — in this case, Orduna’s ex-boyfriend.
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker on Thursday rejected that argument, saying that the crux of the lawsuit was “a breach of the standard of care for medical providers.”
He also said in the early stages of the litigation, he “accepts the inference that an ordinarily competent provider could be governed by a duty to inform the parent of a minor child that a differential diagnosis includes physical abuse.”
Orduna’s attorney, Alexis Chardon of Portland, praised Walker’s decision and predicted her client would prevail at a trial.
“Judge Walker is absolutely correct that one very important standard of care we allege is that the [physician’s assistant] should have told Alex that child abuse was on her baby’s differential diagnosis list, especially when he presented in clinic with unexplained bruises on both ears,” she said. “If the PA had done so, Alex would absolutely have protected her baby from further abuse.”
The next step will be for the government to file an answer to Orduna’s complaint.
The criminal case against Hansley is pending at the Penobscot County Judicial Center. He was indicted by the grand jury in May 2019 on two counts of aggravated assault and one count of assault on a child less than 6 years old. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail in North Carolina.
Efforts to resolve Hansley’s case have been stymied by the pandemic and travel restrictions. He was scheduled in December to appear remotely before a judge to change his pleas and be sentenced but the hearing was continued and has not been reset.