Aubrey Littlejohn Courtesy: Asheville Citizen-Times
Bryson City, NC-- The family of a 15-month-old girl who died while under the care of the Swain County Department of Social Services filed a civil lawsuit against the agency and staffers involved in the case.
The legal action is the second from the family of Aubrey Littlejohn. The family has also filed a case with the state Industrial Commission.
Aubrey died Jan. 10, 2011, at the Cherokee Indian Hospital about 15 minutes after being brought in by her great-aunt, Lady Bird Powell.
She was left in a car seat for 12 hours the day before and given only a few bites of a hot dog and sips of soda, according to court papers.
She was wrapped in a blanket and wearing only a diaper soaked in urine and feces and a T-shirt when she arrived at the hospital, according to an investigator's statement in a search warrant.
Officials said the child's body temperature was 84 degrees when she was brought in.
Powell faces second-degree murder charges.
Attorneys David Wijewickrama and Frederick Barbour said in the legal complaint that DSS officials knew the child was being abused but failed to take action to protect her. The complaint also alleges that illegal drugs were being used in the home.
The complaint does not specify the exact amount of damages the family is seeking.
The complaint asks for a jury trial. "It is very important to the family that the facts and evidence be reviewed and brought to light and, if it can support it, the Department of Social Services and social workers be held accountable," said Wijewickrama.
He said the family's long-term goal is to change DSS so no other child is harmed in the future.
Two DSS staffers also face criminal charges in connection with Aubrey's death.