A Calhoun County judge on Friday dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit against a pair of foster parents in Saks.
Judge Debra Jones granted summary judgment in favor of Jeff Swindle and Nicki Arnold Swindle, foster parents to Oliver Lynn, an infant who died in October 2014.
“We feel like we were punished just for wanting to help,” said Jeff Swindle, in a telephone interview after the ruling.
Oliver Lynn was born in July 2014 at Regional Medical Center, with a medical condition that required surgery, according to court documents. The infant was released from Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital in August 2014, but he didn’t go home with his parents.
The hospital contacted the Department of Human Resources and asked them to go to the Anniston home of parents John and Farrah Lynn, to make sure the couple were prepared to care for the child post-surgery, according to court documents. The Lynns passed that inspection, but a psychologist working under contract with DHR recommended the infant be placed in foster care.
The Lynns in December won a $1.5 million judgement against that psychologist, Dennis Sizemore. The Lynns argued that Sizemore produced his psychological assessments from a template and incorrectly identified them as illiterate and implied they had problems with drugs.
“Everybody, even DHR, said there was nothing wrong with this family,” said the couple’s lawyer, George Monk told The Star at the time of that verdict. “Only the psychologist objected.”
Oliver Lynn died on Oct. 14, 2014, after he became unresponsive during feeding, according to court documents. The Swindles, who were the infant’s foster parents, were out of town on a mission trip at the time of the death, and Oliver was being cared for by another couple.
In a lawsuit filed against the Swindles last year, the Lynns argue that the couple fed Oliver the wrong kind of formula, leading to his death. They also alleged that the Swindles handed off the infant to the other couple in a parking lot, in the absence of a DHR caseworker.
In an affidavit, Nicki Arnold Swindle stated that the Swindles met with the Lynns, a DHR attorney and guardians ad litem to work out a plan for care of the child before leaving for their trip. The Swindles argue that they fed the infant consistent with a doctor’s instructions and followed all DHR policies.
Attempts to reach the Lynns’ lawyer, George Monk, were unsuccessful Friday.
Jeff Swindle said suit would likely lead the Swindles to stop volunteering as foster parents.
“Quite honestly, this has tarnished our desire to do this,” he said.
Nicki Arnold Swindle was the Democratic nominee for the District 36 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives in 2018. The lost the election to longtime incumbent Republican Randy Wood.