The father of the 2-year-old Meeker girl whose care was being overseen by child welfare workers when she died has filed a $15 million claim against the state about his daughter's death. In his tort claim notice, Lance Briggs, 24, of Meeker, is demanding $15 million and a systemwide overhaul of the state Department of Human Services after the death of Kelsey Shelton Smith-Briggs. Briggs' attorney, Derek Burch, said if his claim is refused, Briggs is prepared to file a lawsuit against the state, the state Department of Human Services, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services Inc. and several individuals involved in his daughter's welfare case from January until her Oct. 11 death. Bunch declined to say which individuals would would be named in the lawsuit. Custody of Kelsey was taken away from her mother, Raye Dawn Porter, in January after officials suspected the girl may have been abused. She was given back to her mother in June, but child welfare workers continued to monitor her care. Authorities allege Kelsey died from blunt force trauma to her stomach. Her stepfather, Mike Porter, is accused of first-degree murder in her death. Burch said Briggs was on active duty with the U.S. Army Reserve when the Department of Human Services had oversight of Kelsey's care. In the tort claim notice, Briggs alleges those involved in her case were negligent and failed to properly implement the care, treatment, evaluation, assessments, investigation, reporting and protection needed for his daughter. Briggs also claims there was negligence in the hiring, retention and training of workers who had oversight of her care. State officials have three months to respond before a lawsuit can be filed, Burch said. Pottawatomie County Associate District Judge David Cawthon appointed Briggs administrator of Kelsey's estate on Nov. 15. Briggs on Nov. 15 also requested a copy of all department records involving his daughter. Cawthon said Briggs is entitled to the records, although he was reviewing the documents to determine if some names should be blacked out. He said he also has to decide whether a gag order should be placed on the documents as requested by department officials. Shortly before Thanksgiving, Cawthon said it could take him several weeks to read the file, because it contained more than 1,000 pages. Burch said even without the records, he and attorney Joe White have gathered enough information to feel confident Briggs has grounds for a lawsuit. He said they have some court documents and medical records and have interviewed several people to substantiate Briggs' claim. Burch said there are ways to get around the $100,000 award cap the state Legislature has established for civil suits against the state. He said Briggs has talked about using the money to establish a fund to help abused children and families who are having problems with the department.
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