[Masthead] Overcast ~ 48°F  
High: 63°F ~ Low: 42°F
Monday, May 2, 2016

State rejects $15 million lawsuit in Duis death

Thursday, March 8, 2001

SL law firm could take next step to district court.

The state has rejected a $15 million dollar wrongful death claim filed by the estate of a Spirit Lake toddler whose death sparked changes in Iowa's child protection laws.

The Iowa Appeal Board voted to deny the claim at a recent meeting in Des Moines. The move allows attorneys for Shelby Duis' estate to seek damages in court.

The child had allegedly been abused for months before she was found beaten to death in her home on Jan. 4, 2000.

Shelby's mother, Heidi Watkins, and Watkins' boyfriend, Jesse Wendelsdorf, were acquitted of murder charges. Watkins was convicted of child endangerment and sentenced to prison.

Shelby's biological father, Kevin Duis of Arnolds Park, claimed that the Iowa Department of Human Services and its employees acted negligently in protecting his daughter.

Duis' estate is represented by attorneys Steve Hamilton of Storm Lake and John Sandy of Spirit Lake. Hamilton said they are not shocked by the decision, saying that claims are routinely denied.

"The claims process is something the state has to go through to review it and decide what to do," Hamilton said. "While the case is not routine, the procedure is routine.

"The next step is, if we want to pursue it, to file a lawsuit in district court," he said. "We'll meet with our client and discuss that in the near future."

Read the rest of this story in the 3/8 Pilot Tribune.