Lawsuit alleges DCFS’s lack of supervision led to toddler’s overdose death

BATON ROUGE – The father of the toddler who died after being exposed to fentanyl has officially filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.

Ron Haley and Associates, the law firm representing Mitchell Robinson, the father of Mitchell “Baby Mitch” Robinson III, said the lawsuit was filed on Monday, the first anniversary of the toddler’s death.

Marketa Walters, the Secretary of DCFS at the time of the toddler’s death, and the current DCFS Secretary, Terri Ricks, are defendants in the lawsuit.

Baby Mitch died on June 26, 2022, of an acute fentanyl overdose, according to the coroner’s office.

Baby Mitch’s mother, Whitney Ard, was arrested and charged with negligent homicide in the toddler’s death.

The lawsuit noted several instances leading up to the toddler’s death where the family notified DCFS of potential problems.

According to the suit, DCFS was notified of the toddler’s mother’s drug addiction that could endanger his well-being if he was left in his mother’s custody in 2021 after Baby Mitch’s paternal grandmother asked DCFS to intervene.

On April 12, 2022, hospital staff reported the incident to DCFS for investigation after Baby Mitch arrived at the hospital unresponsive with altered mental status, and respiratory failure, the lawsuit says. At that point, the toddler was given Narcan.

“Approximately one month after “Baby Mitch’s” first near-death experience for opioid exposure, a search warrant was issued for Ms. Ard’s residence at 5962 Denova Street,” the lawsuit states. “The search warrant yielded fentanyl, the same narcotic found in “Baby Mitch’s” system when he was brought to the hospital on June 4, 2022.”

According to the lawsuit, DCFS did not investigate following the incident. On June 4, 2022, DCFS received another report from a hospital regarding the toddler’s health after he was brought to the hospital unresponsive. He was given Narcan again.

Testing revealed on June 17, 2022, that Robinson III had 0.3 ng/ml of fentanyl in his system. DCFS opened an investigation at that point.

Despite Baby Mitch testing positive for fentanyl, DCFS did not remove him from his home, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said on June 26, 2022, the toddler was rushed to the hospital after he was found unresponsive and cold to the touch by his mother. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

According to the lawsuit, there was 14 ng/ml of fentanyl in Robinson III’s system.

During the investigation, the Children’s Advocacy Center interviewed an older sibling on July 6, 2022. “During the interview, the sibling disclosed that in the past, she had seen a lot of pills on her mother’s bed, and her brother (the decedent) “ate mom’s pills.” When their mother found out her brother had eaten some of the pills, Ard whipped him and made him go to bed. Later on, their mother took him to the hospital. Regarding June 26, 2022, the date of the victim’s death, the sibling disclosed that he was “outside, and his lips were blue.”

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