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Case Study: John Doe V. Family Foster Agency

Plaintiff: A young man (“John Doe”) was the victim of repeated sexual abuse perpetrated by his foster parent. The abuse began when John Doe was 11 and continued for more than three years.

Defendant: A Family Foster Agency (“Defendant FFA”) was licensed by Santa Clara County to oversee the foster home in which the abuse took place.

Claims: Defendant FFA was negligent in failing to conduct an adequate background check of John Doe’s foster father and in its supervision of John Doe’s foster home.

Verdict: $30,000,000 in favor of John Doe.



Estey & Bomberger represented John Doe (“Client Doe”) in a negligence action against a licensed private Family Foster Agency (“Defendant FFA”) filed in the Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County. A licensed private Family Foster Agency is a non-profit organization that partners with (and receives money from) counties in California to recruit, certify, and train foster parents. The foster parents trained by licensed private Foster Family Agencies take on children who require more intensive care than can typically be offered in a group home. In other words, some of the most vulnerable children in the foster care system are placed in foster homes overseen by licensed private Family Foster Agencies.

Defendant FFA was licensed to supervise foster homes and was paid by Santa Clara County for its services. As part of its contract with Santa Clara County, Defendant FFA agreed to conduct investigations into the backgrounds of foster parents with whom it placed children. Defendant FFA also agreed to conduct investigations into allegations of abuse and/or neglect that arose in the foster homes it was responsible for overseeing.

Client Doe was one of the children who lived with a foster family that was overseen by Defendant FFA. At the age of 11, Client Doe was removed from the custody of his biological parents and placed with a foster mother and father who lived in Santa Clara County. Client Doe was subject to more than 500 instances of sex abuse by his foster father over the course of about three years. Sadly, Client Doe was not alone. He was one of four children abused by Client Doe’s foster father. Client Doe’s foster father was convicted in a criminal trial and sentenced to 220 years in prison.

Tragically, this abuse was likely preventable. Defendant FFA failed to conduct a proper investigation into the background of Client Doe’s foster father, who had a history of mental illness, addiction, and abusive behavior. There were many “red flags” ignored by Defendant FFA. For example, on at least two occasions other foster children in the home complained of being sexually abused by Client Doe’s father. These complaints were ignored, and Client Doe’s foster father soon realized that Defendant FFA was not doing its job of protecting the children in his home. As a result, the sexual abuse of children in his care continued unabated for three years.

This abuse left Client Doe and others with significant psychological damage. The victims of Client Doe’s foster father reported suffering with extreme depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia; having difficulties in their interpersonal relationships; and struggling with other serious psychological issues.

Child Molestation Victims Lawyers Estey & Bomberger represented Client Doe in a civil lawsuit filed against Defendant FFA in an effort to hold the agency accountable for neglecting to protect him. Client Doe alleged that Defendant FFA was negligent in failing to administer an adequate background check on his foster father. Client Doe also alleged that Defendant FFA was negligent in its oversight of the foster home in which he was placed.

After a full trial, the jury ultimately returned a $30,000,000 verdict in favor of Client Doe. They found that Defendant FFA was negligent in its oversight of Client Doe’s foster home and that it was partially responsible for Client Doe’s severe psychological damage. This was one of the largest verdicts ever awarded in a single-person sex abuse case in California.


Before trial, the Estey & Bomberger molestation attorneys worked tirelessly to prepare Client Doe’s case against Defendant FFA. Steve Estey deposed a number of witnesses to gather evidence of Defendant FFA’s negligence, including Client Doe’s foster mother and other foster children placed in her home. Estey relied on years of litigation experience to elicit testimony from these key deponents, and handled sensitive interviews with care and compassion.

Estey & Bomberger also worked with leading expert witnesses, including:

  • A RETIRED POLICE CHIEF. A police officer with 22 years of experience served as an expert witness for John Doe in his case against Defendant FFA. The officer had decades of experience in the investigation of child abuse and child sexual assault. While serving on the police force, the witness developed a curriculum for the police academy pertaining to the investigation of sex crimes and handled more than 100 sexual abuse and sex crime cases. The witness testified about the proper investigation of allegations of sexual abuse, helping establish that Defendant FFA was negligent in its investigation of sexual misconduct in the foster homes it was responsible for overseeing.

  • A SKILLED PSYCHOLOGIST. A psychologist who studied at Stanford University and Harvard University also served as an expert witness for Client Doe in his case against Defendant FFA. The psychologist had treated as many as 100 patients with a history of sexual abuse during his 30-year career. The witness testified about Client Doe’s psychological issues, helping establish that he was entitled to a large verdict to compensate him for his injuries.

  • A TREATING PSYCHOLOGIST. A psychologist who had treated Client Doe also served as an expert witness for Client Doe in his case against Defendant FFA. The treating psychologist testified about the impact of prolonged sex abuse on Client Doe’s life, helping establish that he was entitled to a large verdict to compensate him for his injuries.

In addition to these expert witnesses, molestation victims attorney Steve Estey drew on extensive courtroom experience to successfully persuade the Santa Clara County jury in this case that Defendant FFA should be held liable for the harm caused to Client Doe. When the $30,000,000 verdict was announced, Client Doe broke into tears. After the victory, Estey felt as though Client Doe would have “more faith in humanity.” The case was a tremendous victory for Client Doe and Estey & Bomberger.

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If you were the victim of child sexual abuse or molestation, Estey & Bomberger can help you bring a civil suit against your abuser or the parties responsible for your abuse. The firm’s compassionate nationwide child molestation victims attorneys have years of experience representing survivors of sexual abuse. For a free and confidential consultation about your case, call 1 (800) 925-0723.