Shortly after Christmas 2015, 6-year-old Kendrea Johnson was found in her foster home hanging from a jump rope, which was tied to her bunk bed. It was a shocking tragedy not only because it involved a child but also because she was so exceptionally young. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was undetermined, unable to exclude “accident” or suicide as causes of death.
Minneapolis attorneys Jeff Montpetit of SiebenCarey and Jeff Storms of Newmark Storms Dworak represented Kendrea’s grandmother, as the wrongful death trustee, to pursue a wrongful death claim against Hennepin County.
The county ultimately agreed to a $1.5 million settlement to resolve the matter in 2018. Montpetit and Storms believe the settlement is indicative of their proof that Kendrea’s death was a suicide. They were able to build their cases upon medical records, drawings, and other documents reflecting that Kendrea was persistently suicidal.
Storms believes this case has helped drive home to mental health and child-protection workers across the state that children as young as Kendrea do commit suicide. Montpetit added that “we believe the case changed the way they [Hennepin County] evaluate kids with serious medical needs, but they will never admit to that. We think they will now take a harder look at the children with serious medical needs and pay closer attention and get them the medical help they need.”