Lawsuit After Child's Death with Foster Parent Settled
By Gerri Elder
In October 2007, Alize Vick was two years old when she died while under the foster care of 36-year-old Jules Lynn Cuneo. The wrongful death lawsuit that followed has now been settled for $300,000, according to the ABC affiliate KRDO.
During an interview with law enforcement, Cuneo said she was angry with Vick because she wasn’t speaking with her and threw her down against a table, according to a child fatality review assembled by the Colorado Department of Human Services.
The fatality review further described that when Cuneo tossed Vick, her head struck the table surface twice and she fell to the ground alongside the table. Vick was later airlifted to an area hospital and was treated for head injuries, but she died the next day, according to the report.
Ashley Lindenberger, Vick’s birth mother, filed the wrongful death lawsuit against El Paso County. The county decided to offer the settlement of the suit to avoid the possibility of a much greater payout, considered “unacceptably high,” if the case went to trial, according to KRDO.
“I think the amount that was paid out is a fairly accurate damage award for the pain and suffering that the child endured,” El Paso County Attorney William Louis said to KRDO.
Louis described some of the evidence against Cuneo including a specific audio recording that served as proper documentation of abuse against Vick at Cuneo’s hands. Cuneo had originally told 911 dispatchers that Vick was hurt because of a “minor fall,” according to the report.
In February, Cuneo was found guilty of reckless manslaughter, though she was originally charged with first degree murder and child abuse. Cuneo is slated to be sentenced in April and could receive as much as 60 years in prison, according to KRDO.
Vick’s brother was also in Cuneo’s care at the time she died from injuries. Lindenberger told KRDO that she had served time in jail for drug charges and El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark was quoted saying that Vick’s immediate family all had criminal records, which is why Vick and her brother were placed in foster care.
“The grandfather was a registered sex offender,” Clark told KRDO. “You just, you can't do that.”
Lindenberger reportedly originally asked for $700,000, but said she decided to lower the dollar amount to avoid personal details about her life coming out during a trial. She later won back custody of her son who is now three-years-old.