HAMMOND | A man has sued the state Department of Child Services and several of its employees in connection with a Porter County child abuse case that resulted in his ex-wife and another woman being sentenced to prison time last year.
Joseph Lozano Jr. filed suit on behalf of himself and three children against the state, the department of child services, and nine employees of the department. The suit that was originally filed this October in Porter County Superior Circuit Court and was transferred Monday to U.S. District Court in Hammond.
The suit claims state workers both failed to properly protect his children and also deprived him of his rights to parent the children. Lozano's attorney, Lynda LeBlanc, said the three children are back with Joseph Lozano now as well as another child that his ex-wife was pregnant with at the time of her sentencing. LeBlanc declined to comment on how much is being sought in the lawsuit.
Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana attorney general's office, said the state's lawyers will file a response to the allegations by the appropriate deadlines.
"Allegations in a civil lawsuit are the opinion of the plaintiff's lawyer filing them and may be refuted in court," he wrote.
Lozano's ex-wife, Valparaiso resident Elizabeth Lozano, was sentenced last December to 18 years in a child abuse case in which her 4-year-old boy was severely beaten. Four years were suspended and those are to be served on formal probation. Her neighbor, Angela Terrell, was sentenced earlier in 2014 to six years in prison for her role in the abuse.
Elizabeth Lozano said she turned her child over for care and disciplining to Terrell after having trouble managing the boy. Terrell hit the boy with wooden spoons, belts and other objects and was with the boy when he suffered a traumatic head injury, according to Elizabeth Lozano's defense attorney.
Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek, however, said at that time that there was evidence Elizabeth Lozano also physically abused the boy, including text messages where she and Terrell joked about the harm.
LeBlanc said Wednesday that "there was abuse going on in the whole household, but unfortunately it appears that (the 4-year-old boy) got the brunt of it."
According to Joseph Lozano's lawsuit, he was separated from his wife at the time and she refused him access to the children. The suit claims the Department of Child Services was "repeatedly informed of ongoing abuse and neglect of the Lozano children" both through the Abuse Hotline and through the Porter County field office, yet "failed to take proper action to investigate and protect the children."
On Oct. 7, 2013, Joseph Lozano allegedly met with a DCS employee at the Porter County DCS office at the department's request.
At the time he was told by the employee "that he needed to tell his family and friends to quit making reports to DCS about the Lozano children," according to the lawsuit.
On Oct. 23, 2013, Elizabeth Lozano took the 4-year-old boy to a hearing in Lake County and while in the courthouse a court-appointed special advocate noticed he had a black eye and extensive bruising with redness around his right ear, the lawsuit said.
The suit said the boy was taken to Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville that same day suffering from bruising, blistering, and multiple contusions on his buttocks, face, back, legs and arms and reportedly later had brain surgery. LeBlanc on Wednesday indicated that the boy is doing OK physically at the present time, although there is ongoing concern when someone undergoes brain surgery.
The three children were reportedly made wards of the department that day and placed with a foster family and the suit claims Lozano was frustrated in attempts to get information and see the children for a period of time. According to the lawsuit, the department allegedly kept Lozano from having any contact with the children from Oct. 23, 2013, until Nov. 5, 2013, when they allowed him only limited visitation.