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Indiana to pay family $25M in child death lawsuit

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana officials have agreed to pay $25 million to a couple who was wrongfully accused in the death of their 14-year-old daughter.

The lawsuit filed by Jessica Salyer’s family was dismissed Wednesday after the settlement was reached.

Court documents allege the state Department of Child Services pursued a neglect case against her parents, Roman and Lynnette Finnegan, despite an investigation that showed Jessica died in 2005 from taking prescribed medications that had a fatal interaction.

The department removed two of the Finnegan’s other children from their home and placed them in foster care. The Finnegans were arrested, but the charges were later dropped. They then sued three of the department’s workers, an Indiana State Police detective and a doctor in 2008.

A jury sided with the family in 2015, finding that officials sabotaged investigations into Jessica’s death, and awarded the family $31 million. The Indiana Attorney General’s Office appealed last year, asking the court to review the verdict and reduce the amount awarded by the jury.

State officials continue to deny any “fault, wrongdoing or liability,” Chief Counsel of Appeals Stephen Creason, of the attorney general’s office, said in a statement Thursday.

“We are very pleased that we are finally getting some closure with a substantial measure of justice,” said Ron Waicukauski, one of the Finnegans’ attorneys. “We hope that this settlement will also make other public officials more sensitive to the kind of concerns that we raised in this case about abuse of power.”

According to the settlement, the money will be paid from the Indiana Tort Claims Fund.

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