Court Reinstates Cummings Lawsuit Against Erie County

It was a crime that horrified the Western New York community and now an appeals court has ruled that a lawsuit against Erie County in the death of Laura Cummings can go forward.

Laura was the developmentally disabled 23-year-old who was tortured and murdered by her mother and one of her brothers in 2010 in North Collins.

In the months before Laura was killed, a 2 On Your Side investigation revealed that the county's Adult Protective Services division was repeatedly contacted with allegations that Laura was being horribly abused.

Some of those calls came from a family friend, North Collins town justice John Stevens.

"There were some obvious red flags that should have been waving like crazy out there. I just don't see how in good conscience they could leave her in that situation," said Stevens in 2010.

But time and again the county failed to take action and remove Laura from the family home in North Collins.

Just weeks before her murder, a letter from the county to Laura herself said "you have no unmet needs nor at risk of harm."

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed on Laura's behalf about a year after her murder.

A judge dismissed that lawsuit, but now an appeals court has reversed that decision and now the case against the county can go forward. The reversal also means workers in the Adult Protective Services division can now be questioned about their actions in Laura's case.

"The most important thing now is Scott we'll finally get a chance to take the depositions of the individuals that were involved. We can have a chance to interview them under oath and we can pursue this case. This was a very tragic case and it needs to be pursued," Terry Connors, the attorney for Laura's estate said.

One of Laura's brothers, Richard, who lived out of town at the time and had called the county numerous times on her behalf, said the appeals court ruling was a really good thing.

Richard Cummings: "I just want justice to be done, for the county to be responsible."

Scott Brown: "Do you believe if the county had acted properly that Laura would still be alive today?"

Richard Cummings: "If they would have done their jobs, absolutely."

A spokesman for Erie County declined to comment on the appeals court decision.

It will be up to a jury to decide damages in the case which will be based in part on the pain and suffering Laura endured before her murder.


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