Mother of autistic boy who froze when his father made him sleep in garage can sue CPS for $200M


Mother of autistic boy, 8, who froze to death when his NYPD cop father made him sleep on garage floor can sue CPS and his school for $200M, judge rules

  • An Eastern District of New York court ruled that Justyna Zubko-Valva claims that institutions could be found culpable for her son’s death were valid 
  • Zubko-Valva is suing numerous Child protection Services officials, officials from her son Thomas’ school, and several attorneys involved in the case
  • The mother claims that she provided ample evidence to CPS and her son’s school that he was being abused by his father, but that they did nothing about it

The mother of an autistic boy who froze to death when his NYPD father made him sleep on a garage floor has been given the go-ahead to sue child protective services and school officials for $200million, a judge has ruled. 

Justyna Zubko-Valva claims that she had warned child protective services and administrators at her son’s school that the eight-year-old Thomas was being abused by his father. 

Her fears came true on January 17, 2020, when Thomas froze to death after his father, Michael Valva, locked him in a freezing garage as a form of punishment. Valva’s girlfriend, Angela Pollina, allegedly participated in the abuse.

Last week, an Eastern District of New York court advanced Zubko-Valva’s lawsuit against numerous CPS officials for deliberate indifference, school officials from the East Moriches Union Free School District for wrongful death claims, and several attorneys for malpractice. 

Valva and Pollina were charged with second degree murder in the death, and are currently awaiting trial. The case saw extensive delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.   

Michael Valva, the boy's father

Angela Pollina, Valva's girlfriend

Michael Valva (left) and Angela Pollina (right), were charged with second degree murder after Valva’s son Thomas froze to death after being locking in his garage

Justyna Zubko-Valva holds up a picture of her son, Thomas, 8. She is suing Child Protection Services and Thomas' school for his death

Justyna Zubko-Valva holds up a picture of her son, Thomas, 8. She is suing Child Protection Services and Thomas’ school for his death

‘Forcing Tommy and Anthony [his brother] to sleep in subfreezing temperatures on a cold, cement slab in the garage was so common in Mr. Valva and Ms. Pollina’s household that they referred to the garage as the ‘kid’s room,” wrote U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in a 37-page ruling.

‘While the barbaric acts of Mr. Valva and Ms. Pollina are directly responsible for Tommy’s death, there is an institutional actor that is almost as culpable,’ said Korman.

Zubko-Valva claims that she provided Thomas’ school with evidence spanning two years of alleged abuse at the hands of his father, ranging from audio recordings, photos, and medical records. 

‘Mrs. Valva was so worried about the children that she emailed the school’s principal that the children were in ‘enormous danger of losing their lives by Michael Valva and Pollina,’ the ruling reads. ‘In January 2018, Mrs. Valva alleges that ‘the School Defendants saw clear, irrefutable proof that Tommy had been physically beaten and abused by Valva, with severe bruising in his lower spine and buttocks area.” 

Thomas Valva, 8, who was autistic, died when his father locked him in his home's garage in January, 2020

Thomas Valva, 8, who was autistic, died when his father locked him in his home’s garage in January, 2020

Zubko-Valva and her son Thomas before his death. Thomas' father was awarded custody of Thomas in 2017

Zubko-Valva and her son Thomas before his death. Thomas’ father was awarded custody of Thomas in 2017

 Valva was awarded custody of his two sons – both autistic – in 2017, but Zubko-Valva claims that Thomas’ school did nothing about her abuse allegations for a full year after that. 

She claims she gave CPS a flash drive with 320 files of evidence of abuse, which included transcripts of Valva teaching his sons to repeat  ‘mommy is mean,’ ‘I don’t want to stay with mommy,’ ‘I don’t love mommy.’

Zubko-Valva said that Valva told CPS that she was the abusive parent, that she beat the kids and poisoned them with ‘brown medicine.’

Michael Valva arriving in court in March, 2020, after his son froze to death in his garage in January of that year

Michael Valva arriving in court in March, 2020, after his son froze to death in his garage in January of that year

Angela Pollina, girlfriend of Michael Valva, appearing in court in March, 2020. She allegedly partook in the abuse of Thomas

Angela Pollina, girlfriend of Michael Valva, appearing in court in March, 2020. She allegedly partook in the abuse of Thomas

She accused CPS of lying about their findings and fabricated evidence to support the father’s accusations.

Thomas’ mother said that CPS found that he looked ’emaciated,’ but that they closed their investigation into Valva 10 days before their son died.  

The list of defendants Zubko-Valva is suing is long, and includes Suffolk County CPS senior caseworker Michele Clark, CPS supervisor Edward Heepe, principal Edward Schneyer of the East Moriches School, and school superintendent Charles Russon. 

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