The state of Indiana made life a living hell for the Finnegans, Roman and Lynnette. First, their child died after a doctor accidentally prescribed what turned out to be an overdose of her medications. The coroner confirmed how she died. Their daughter Jessica was born with heart and seizure disease. She was on several medications, when her doctor took her off one medication and then doubled her dosage on a second. After jennifer died, the Department of Children’s Services charged them with neglect, even though the coroner’s report cleared them completely. They have now been fully cleared and Indiana has agreed to pay them $25 million in damages.
Jessica was born with a heart defect and seizure disorder and had numerous open heart surgeries, including one that left her with a two-chambered heart instead of the typical four.
She was also taking multiple high-risk drugs include Coumadin, a blood-thinning medication; Digoxin, a blood pressure support drug; and Dilantin, a seizure medication.
On December 20, 2005, Jessica Salyer was found dead in her Francesville home. She had stayed home from school that day because she was feeling ill.
Her mother, Lynnette, found her around 2pm, lying face down by her bed, not breathing, and with a small amount of blood by her mouth and nose.
It was eventually discovered that a doctor had doubled her dosage of Coumadin and had taken her off an anti-seizure medication, causing an accidental overdose.
The Finnegans were arrested and charged with neglect in Jessica’s death and two of their three children – Tabitha and Katelynn – were removed from their home and placed in foster care.
DCS officials later ignored evidence including the coroner’s conclusion that a prescription error resulting in overdose caused Jessica’s death, according to Indianapolis attorney Rich Waples.
He said investigators tried to frame the couple by falsifying documents sent to a state fatality review team.
‘It was beyond the pale, and the jury understood that,’ Waples said, noting that the coroner testified for the plaintiffs.
Charges against the couple were eventually dropped.
After the parents were charged and the children removed from their home, Roman Finnegan was fired from his job at the Department of Correction.
The family lost its home and was forced to sell off nearly all possessions.
‘It literally destroyed the family,’ Waples said.
‘They’ve been essentially destitute for the better part of nine years.’
Roman has since been rehired by the DOC.
After the charges were dropped, the Finnegans sued three of the DCS’s workers, an Indiana State Police detective and a doctor in 2008.
A jury sided with the family in 2015, finding that officials sabotaged investigations into Jessica’s death and awarded the family $31.3 million. The Indiana Attorney General’s Office appealed the verdict last year.
State officials continue to deny any ‘fault, wrongdoing or liability,’ Chief Counsel of Appeals Stephen Creason, of the attorney general’s office, told The Indiana Lawyer.