Court clears Erie Co. in Cummings case

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NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. (WIVB) – A State Supreme Court justice has cleared Erie County of any wrongdoing in the case of Laura Cummings.

Two civil lawsuits brought by attorneys for the Cummings estate have been dismissed. We may never know if case workers from Adult Protective Services should have done more to protect the challenged woman, or how they may have fallen short in their efforts.

Twenty-three-year-old Laura Cummings, who was mentally and physically challenged, was beaten, raped, and tortured in her North Collins home, before her life was taken by her own mother, now serving a 50 year prison sentence. Her half brother Luke Wright is serving 40 years to life. A younger brother had pleaded that Erie County’s Adult Protective Services intervene.

Richard Cummings said, “And told them you need to really investigate this because I know there is something going on in that house, and they just would not do anything.”

Now, attorneys for Cummings estate have been told they cannot interview the lead case worker under oath to obtain information they believe would be critical in getting to the truth.

Attorney John Loss said, “To find out what she did and what she did not do, and to find out whether she complied with the policies and procedures of Adult Protective Services.”

But case workers and the county are protected against liability, even if there’s a judgment error, said State Supreme Court Justice Diane Devlin. Attorneys for Erie County noted the horrific nature of the case, but agreed with the judge’s ruling.

Erie County attorney Michael Siragus said, “These investigators who go out each and every day to investigate these types of complaints have to make judgment calls. These are very difficult calls to make depending on the type of case, and those types of calls are protected under the law, and you can’t impugn liability with respect to those types of things.”

“Adult Protective Services, by its name, is to protect adults and to serve adult, and we want to question the case worker to see if those missions were accomplished in this case,” countered Loss.

New state legislation stemming from this case would make it easier to investigate homes where abuse is taking place.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan said, “After the second report of abuse, Child or Adult Protective Services under this legislation would be required to seek a court order to investigate.”

The law, which passed the Senate last year but failed in the Assembly, would also require protective agencies to talk to each other. Regarding the ability to talk to the lead case worker, attorneys for the Laura Cummings estate say they will appeal the judge’s ruling.

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