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Hawaii to fight ruling in death of sailor’s son

March 24, 2014 - 11:33am

HONOLULU — Hawaii officials will fight a judge’s ruling that found the state Department of Human Services equally negligent as a Navy diver father in his 14-month-old boy’s death.

A jury found Matthew McVeigh guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of his son Brayden, who suffered massive hemorrhaging and a severely swollen brain from being struck or shaken.

The judge in the civil case awarded the boy’s grandmother Terri Polm $250,000 in the wrongful-death lawsuit. The state and the child’s father, Matthew McVeigh, were found to each be 50 percent responsible for the award amount. McVeigh, who was based at Pearl Harbor at the time of the death, is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

According to Circuit Judge Gary W.B. Chang’s August ruling, Brayden’s short life was “marred by violence and pain,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

State attorney general spokeswoman Anne Lopez said the state plans to file an appeals brief next month and will reserve comment until then.

DHS contested some the judge’s findings in a statement to the newspaper. The department said McVeigh’s criminality was the sole cause of the boy’s death. “The taxpayers of this state are not responsible for any harm done to Brayden,” the statement said.

“Mr. McVeigh did not have a history of violence, did not have a criminal history of domestic abuse,” the agency said. “That Mr. McVeigh ‘cracked’ and assaulted his child was not foreseeable; we simply cannot predict violence in those without a history of violence.”

Brayden and his sister were taken into DHS custody in 2008 because of suspected abuse and neglect, according to court records. When the children were returned to their parents six months later, a DHS social worker repeatedly dropped the ball in monitoring Brayden’s well-being, the judge found, and that DHS had a duty to provide him with “competent, prompt and ample protection from harm.”

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