Lancaster father sues DCFS over fentanyl related death of toddler

The father of a 17-month-old boy who died due to fentanyl ingestion at the Lancaster home of his mother and grandfather announced Wednesday the filing of a $65 million damages claim against the county Department of Children and Family Services, saying the agency should have known the child was unsafe in the home.

Justin Bulley died Feb. 18 from what the county Medical Examiner's Office concluded was the "effects of fentanyl."

Attorney Brian Claypool told reporters at a downtown Los Angeles news conference Wednesday that the child died while his mother and her father were in the midst of a drug binge, and that a history of drug and other suspected activity was well-documented in the home and should have triggered the removal of Justin and his three siblings from the home.

"On the day of Justin's death, mom and her father were doing drugs, alcohol and a DCFS visitation supervisor is there," Claypool alleged. "This person is supposed to protect children, and she is at a home while the mother of these young kids and her father are engaging in drug activity."

DCFS declined to comment on the case, citing the pending litigation.

Claypool filed the damages claim Tuesday on behalf of Justin's father, Montise Bulley, and Justin's three siblings.

"It was devastating," Montise Bulley told reporters. "I didn't understand. You know, I get that phone call. Who gets a phone call like that? I didn't know what to do. I was shocked."

Bulley told reporters following his son's death that he was trying to gain custody of the boy.

Claypool alleged there was a history of drug use in the home, saying Justin's mother's boyfriend died of a fentanyl overdose in the home last year in front of the children. He also claimed the mother was arrested early last year for driving drunk and hitting a big rig -- a crash that occurred with Justin in the car but not restrained in a child seat.

As of Wednesday, no arrests had been made in connection with Justin's death, although Claypool contended in the claim documents that the investigation is continuing and criminal charges "are imminent."

"For years the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services was aware of the danger the children were in and allowed their mother and grandfather continued access to the children," according to the damages claim. "There were substantiated allegations of abuse throughout the years."

According to the document, the day after Justin's death, his three siblings all tested positive for fentanyl in their systems.

"A search of the home revealed glass pipes, baggies with unknown substances, and other drug paraphernalia; some of these items were in areas reachable by children," according to the claim.

The claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. If the county rejects the claim, the case can be pursued as a lawsuit.