The City of Virginia Beach has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a lawsuit arising from the death of a foster child, Braxton Taylor, in 2010.
The settlement agreement was reached Friday, Feb. 15, after several hours of mediation. The City Council was briefed on the settlement this afternoon, and it will be presented to a Circuit Court judge for final approval. No court date has been set.
If approved by the court, about $170,000 of the settlement proceeds will be put into a trust fund for Braxton Taylor’s brothers and sisters. His biological father, Ralph Taylor Jr., will receive $75,000, and his biological mother, Kristen Wall, will receive $50,000 of the proceeds. The remainder will go to legal fees and expenses of the estate, which is represented by the law firm of Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock.
Braxton Taylor died on Feb. 7, 2010, at the age of 10 months. His foster mother, Kathleen Ganiere, was accused of shaking him to death. Ganiere was initially charged with murder, and later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison in November 2011.
“We were all deeply saddened by Braxton Taylor’s death,” City Attorney Mark Stiles said. “The abuse he suffered was heartbreaking. It remains unthinkable to us that a foster mother would commit a homicidal act against an innocent child.”
After Braxton Taylor’s death, the city made major changes to its child welfare programs, including improved screening and training for prospective foster parents, weekly face-to-face visits by child welfare workers with young foster children, increased staff training for injury recognition, and increased involvement by Child Protective Services in suspicious cases.
“We have learned from this tragedy,” said Deputy City Manager Cindy Curtis, “and we have made permanent changes as a result. I am confident that these changes will better serve at-risk children and their families.”
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