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IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS

COUNTY DEPARTMENT, LAW DIVISION

JAMES CROSBY, as Special Administrator for )


the Estate of SEMAJ CROSBY, deceased, )
)
Plaintiff, )
)
v. ) No.
)
CHILDRENS HOME & AID SOCIETY OF )
ILLINOIS d/b/a CHILDREN’S HOME & AID, )
an Illinois Not-For-Profit Corporation, and ) JURY DEMANDED
SHERRI GORDON, an individual, )
)
Defendants. )
)

COMPLAINT AT LAW

NOW COMES the Plaintiff, JAMES CROSBY as Special Administrator for the Estate of

Semaj Crosby, deceased, by and through their attorneys THE DERATANY FIRM, and

complaining of Defendants CHILDREN’S HOME & AID SOCIETY OF ILLINOIS d/b/a

CHILDREN’S HOME & AID, and Illinois Not-For-Profit Corpiration and SHERRI GORDON,

an individual, states as follows:

Introduction

1. James Crosby, the biological father of Sema’j Crosby, is an adult citizen of the United

States residing in Joliet, IL.

2. The defendant CHILDRENS HOME & AID SOCIETY OF ILLINOIS d/b/a

CHILDREN’S HOME & AID (‘CHA’) is a not for profit social services agency providing social

services to children and families through its contract with THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF

CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES (‘DCFS’).

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3. CHA is incorporated in Chicago, IL with a registered agent in Chicago, IL.

4. The defendant SHERRI GORDON is the biological mother of Sema’j Crosby and resides

in Joliet, IL.

5. Seventeen month old Sema’j Crosby was reported to police as missing from her family's

home on April 25, 2017. A large scale search effort was made by police and volunteers around

the home and neighboring areas on the evening of the report.

6. Semaj was discovered deceased in her home the following day, under a couch that had

no legs. The medical examiner ruled her death homicide by asphyxia. The home was filthy and

declared Uninhabitable the day after Semaj was found.

7. The home of Sema’j Crosby was being monitored by CHA due to multiple allegations of

abuse and neglect over a period of two years. A CHA caseworker had been to the home the day

before Sema’j was declared missing.

Facts Common to All Counts

8. Sheri Gordon, biological mother of Sema’j Crosby lived at 309 Louis Road in Joliet

Township with her four children, ages 10, 7, 2 and one year old Sema’j Crosby. One of the

children had significant behavioral and mental health disabilities for which he required

psychiatric hospitalization.

9. There were up to 15 other people who frequented and/or inhabited the home at various

times, whom the Will County Sherriff’s Office have referred to as “squatters”.

10. A DCFS hotline call was made in September, 2016 regarding the children not being

properly supervised and potential drug use in the home.

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11. DCFS conducted an initial investigation, and then on or about September, 2016 assigned

the case to CHA, pursuant to their contract to provide case work, placement, and home

monitoring, and assessments for the benefit of minor victims of suspected abuse and neglect.

12. On or about September, 2016 and per their contractual and legal obligations, CHA

opened an “Intact Family Services” case and undertook to provide services to the family for the

benefit of Sema’j and the other children, while the children remained in the home.

13. Pursuant to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Intact Family

Services or “Intact” program under DCFS Procedures Section 302.388, CHA was required to

make contacts and follow up contacts with the children and Sheri Gordon in the home several

times during the month to assess the mother’s stability and the children’s safety. Specifically,

CHA was required to complete detailed assessments inclusive of the “Child Endangerment Risk

Assessment Protocol” which would have assessed whether each of the children were at risk for

harm and abuse.

14. CHA noted that Sheri Gordon had cognitive limitations, and this interfered with

coordinating the children's medical appointments and care.

15. From September, 2016 through April 2017, Ms. Gordon had difficulty participating in the

services, inability to comprehend directions, which significantly impacted her ability to identify

and attend to her children's developmental and well-being needs, and was a cause of continued

abuse and neglect of the children.

16. During the time that CHA was monitoring the home, and responsible for the safety of the

children, there were fifteen or more people living in the home inclusive of multiple families and

other children, in violation of zoning and/or housing codes. Upon information and belief, many

had open investigations of child abuse and neglect.

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17. During the time that CHA was monitoring the home, the Gordon home was unsanitary,

and unsafe for children. At the time of Sema’j’s death, the home was described as containing

“safety hazards” and as being “deplorable”, with bedbugs, roaches, and other vermin and

garbage throughout.

18. Multiple child protection investigations occurred between the time of the opening of the

Intact Family Case and Semaj reported as missing.

a. Three investigations were initiated due to reported safety issues for the seven
year old child with significant behavioral health concerns.

b. Three additional investigations involved young children of family members


who were staying in the Gordon home and often provided care for Semaj and
her siblings.

Events prior to Sema’j Crosby’s death

19. On Monday, April 24, 2017, a caseworker from CHA went to the home and observed or

should have observed the home in an unsafe, unsanitary, condition with bedbugs, roaches,

vermin and which presented a clear safety hazard for any child within the home.

20. On Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at approximately 6:30 PM, the family of Sema’j Crosby

contact the police to report her missing. Prior to contacting the police, Sheri Gordon contacted

her personal attorney.

21. On Wednesday, April 26, 2017 the Will County Sherriff obtained consent to search the

home at 11:00 PM. The Sherriff’s department donned hazmat suits when searching the home,

due to the filthy, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions.

22. On April 27, 2017, Thursday, Sema’j Crosby was found dead under the couch in the

living room at 309 Louis Road. The couch had no legs and was flush to the ground. At 1:27

AM Sema’j Crosby was pronounced dead. After Sema’j Crosby was discovered deceased under

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the couch, the sheriff’s office contacted the Will County Land Use Department to evaluate 309

Louis Road, where after on April 28, 2017 the home was condemned and deemed uninhabitable.

23. On May 6, 2017, the residence of 309 Louis Road burned to the ground and authorities

suspected arson.

24. The Will County Coroner classified Sema’j Crosby’s death as asphyxia caused by

homicide.

COUNT I
NEGLIGENCE/ WRONGFUL DEATH
CHILDREN’S HOME & AID

1-24. Plaintiff readopts and re-alleges paragraphs of this complaint at law 1-24 as if

plead herein.

25. At all times relevant, CHA had a duty to act as a reasonably careful social

services provider within accepted standards of care, in the delivery of Intact Services to Sema’j

Crosby;

26. In violation of its duty, CHA by and through its agents acted or failed to act in one

or more of the following ways:

a. Upon discovering, unsafe and unsanitary conditions failed to immediately report


and act to remove the child from the home for their own protection;

b. Failed to identify, report and act on the deplorable, unsafe, and unsanitary
conditions of the home;

c. Failed to provide proper assessment, and identify and act upon the cognitive
impairments of Sheri Gordon;

d. Assigned too many cases to its caseworkers;

e. Failed to provide proper supervision to its caseworkers;

f. Failed to complete required assessments for the safety of Sema’j Crosby in


violation of DCFS rules and procedures;

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g. Failed to complete the requisite amounts of visits to the home;

h. Failed to coordinate with DCFS child protective services when there were ten
additional allegations of abuse or neglect in the home;

i. Failed to do background checks and child welfare checks on the individuals who
were residing in or frequenting the home;

j. Failed to interview the children outside the presence of their caregivers in


violation of DCFS rule and procedure;

k. Failed to provide proper training to its caseworkers; and

l. Failed to report the unsafe and unsanitary conditions to DCFS in violation of


DCFS rules and procedures;

27. The aforementioned acts or omissions of CHA were a proximate cause or

contributing cause to the death of Sema’j Crosby.

28. This claim is being brought pursuant to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.

29. The decedent Sema’j Crosby has left behind the following next of kin who have

and will continue to experience loss of society:

Name Relationship
JAMES CROSBY Father, Special
Administrator

SHERI GORDON Mother, Defendant

JA’KAHI CROSBY Sibling, Minor

MI-LAYSIA CROSBY Sibling, Minor

CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLOM Sibling, Minor

JONATHAN GORDON Sibling, Minor

WHEREFORE the Plaintiff JAMES CROSBY seeks judgment against the Defendant

CHILDREN’S HOME & AID in excess of the jurisdictional limit.

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COUNT II
WILLFUL AND WANTON / WRONGFUL DEATH
CHA

1-24. Plaintiff readopts and realleges paragraphs of this complaint at law 1-24 as if

plead herein.

25. At all times relevant, CHA had a duty to act as a reasonably careful social

services provider in the delivery of Intact Services to Sema’j Crosby;

26. In violation of its duty, CHA by and through its agents acted or failed to act with

reckless disregard to the safety of Sema’j Crosby in one or more of the following ways:

a. Upon discovering, unsafe and unsanitary conditions failed to immediately report


and act to remove the child from the home for their own protection;

b. Failed to identify, report and act on the deplorable, unsafe, and unsanitary
conditions of the home;

c. Failed to provide proper assessment, and identify and act upon the cognitive
impairments of Sheri Gordon;

d. Assigned too many cases to its caseworkers;

e. Failed to provide proper supervision to its caseworkers;

f. Failed to complete required assessments for the safety of Sema’j Crosby in


violation of DCFS rules and procedures;

g. Failed to complete the requisite amounts of visits to the home;

h. Failed to coordinate with DCFS child protective services when there were ten
additional allegations of abuse or neglect in the home;

i. Failed to do background checks and child welfare checks on the individuals who
were residing in or frequenting the home;

j. Failed to interview the children outside the presence of their caregivers in


violation of DCFS rule and procedure;

k. Failed to provide proper training to its caseworkers; and

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l. Failed to report the unsafe and unsanitary conditions to DCFS in violation of
DCFS rules and procedures;

27. The aforementioned willful and wanton acts or omissions of CHA were a

proximate cause or contributing cause to the death of Sema’j Crosby.

28. This claim is being brought pursuant to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.

29. The decedent Sema’j Crosby has left behind the following next of kin who have

and will continue to experience loss of society:

Name Relationship
JAMES CROSBY Father, Special
Administrator

SHERI GORDON Mother, Defendant

JA’KAHI CROSBY Sibling, Minor

MI-LAYSIA CROSBY Sibling, Minor

CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLOM Sibling, Minor

JONATHAN GORDON Sibling, Minor

WHEREFORE the Plaintiff JAMES CROSBY seeks judgment against the Defendant

CHILDREN’S HOME & AID in excess of the jurisdictional limit.

COUNT III
NEGLIGENCE/WRONGFUL DEATH
SHERI GORDON

1-24. Plaintiff readopts and realleges paragraphs 1-24 of this complaint at law as if

plead fully herein.

25. At all times relevant, Sheri Gordon had a duty of ordinary care to provide for the

welfare and safety of her daughter.

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26. In violation of this duty, Sheri Gordon acted or failed to act in one or more of the

following ways:

a. Failed to properly supervise Sema’j Crosby;

b. Allowed Sema’j Crosby to be left unattended for periods of time that were not
age-appropriate;

c. Exposed Sema’j Crosby to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions;

d. Caused Sema’j Crosby to become asphyxiated;

e. Allowed Sema’j Crosby to become asphyxiated;

f. Placed Sema’j Crosby under the couch where she died.

27. The aforementioned acts or omissions were a proximate cause or contributing

cause to the death of Sema’j Crosby.

28. This claim is being brought pursuant to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act;

29. The decedent Sema’j Crosby has left behind the following next of kin who have

and will continue to experience loss of society:

Name Relationship
JAMES CROSBY Father, Special
Administrator

SHERI GORDON Mother, Defendant

JA’KAHI CROSBY Sibling, Minor

MI-LAYSIA CROSBY Sibling, Minor

CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLOM Sibling, Minor

JONATHAN GORDON Sibling, Minor

WHEREFORE the Plaintiff JAMES CROSBY seeks judgment against the Defendant SHERI

GORDON in excess of the jurisdictional limit.

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RESPONDENT IN DISCOVERY
PURSUANT TO ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT RULE 224
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES

NOW COMES the Petitioner, JAMES CROSBY, by and through his attorneys, THE

DERATANY FIRM, and seeking to name as Respondent in Discovery, THE ILLINOIS

DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES (DCFS), and states as follows:

1. That on or about April 25, 2017, the Petitioner’s decedent, SEMA’J CROSBY,

was found deceased under the couch in her home. Several individuals who resided in the home

with SEMA’J CROSBY had been investigated by DCFS.

2. SEMA’J CROSBY was being serviced by CHILDREN’S HOME & AID as a

contractor for DCFS’s Intact Program.

3. Intact Service was created as an alternative to removing children from foster care.

Its mission is to offer counseling, resources and oversight to keep families together, instead of

putting children through another trauma by removing them from the home and placing them with

strangers. The Intact Program services approximately 2, 700 children in the state.

4. Sometime in or around 2012, DCFS privatized the intact program, and began

contracting with agencies such as CHA and other service providers to deliver Intact Program

services.

5. The DERATANY FIRM has been retained to investigate whether there is

negligence occurring on said date leading to the death of Sema’j Crosby

6. DCFS has conducted several investigations and has information that petitioner

requires to ascertain the identity of other individuals and service providers to the home of Sema’j

Crosby.

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7. In order to properly ascertain the identity of the parties who could or may be

liable for the Plaintiff/Petitioner’s decedent’s wrongful death, it is essential that respondents

provide Petitioner with the following information:

a. The 2016-2017 contract with CHILDREN’S HOME & AID;

b. Any and all contracts with any other service provider or individuals who provided
services to the Crosby home;

c. Policies and procedures for the INTACT program for 2016-2017,

d. The names of all individuals, corporations and non for profit agencies that created or
implemented policies of procedures of the Intact program;

e. Any documents written in conjunction with the investigation into the death of SEMA’J
CROSBY including but not limited to the “DCFS JOINT SPECIAL REVIEW”; THE
CHILD DEATH INVESTIGATIVE REVIEW; and THE OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR
GENERAL REPORT;

f. The investigative files for child abuse or neglect for residents of SEMA’J CROSBY’S
home;

g. The deposition of the person most knowledgeable under S. Ct Rule 206 (a) (1) with
knowledge of the policies and procedures of the Intact program and the name of the
individuals and entities who created and implemented said policies.

WHEREFORE, the petitioner, JAMES CROSBY, prays this Honorable Court to enter an

order providing as follows:

A. Respondent, DCFS shall, within 14 days, provide Petitioner with the above-referenced

records and data in their possession relating to the incident leading to the death of SEMA’J

CROSBY by sending all the above-referenced records of SEMA’J CROSBY, deceased, to the

office of the DERATANTY FIRM, or in the alternative, make said records available for

inspection and photographing within 14 days of the date of this order, on a regular business day

and during regular business hours, so as not to interfere unnecessarily with the operation of

Respondents; and

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B. Respondent, DCFS, shall, within 60 days of the date of this order produce the person

most knowledgeable of the events leading up to the aforementioned incident.

Respectfully submitted,

By: /s/ Jay Paul Deratany


One of the Attorneys for Plaintiff

THE DERATANY FIRM


221 N. LaSalle
Suite 2200
Chicago, IL 60601
P: 312-857-7285
F: 312-857-2004
Attorney No. 30900.

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