A Middlesex County civil clerk on Wednesday entered a default ruling against a former Cambridge nanny who has been named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a 1-year-old girl who died in her care.
According to court records, Aisling Brady McCarthy, who now lives in Ireland, was served a copy of the lawsuit on July 8 and has failed, within the maximum 20 days allowed by the courts, to "file an appearance, answer," or issue any other "responsive pleading."
A hearing date for damages is now expected to be scheduled sometime this fall, said Martha Coakley, an attorney representing Sameer Sabir and Nada Siddiqui, the parents of Rehma Sabir. During this hearing, Coakley said, the parents will seek a way to prevent McCarthy from profiting from their daughter's death, through book deals or movie rights, and will outline the voluminous evidence they say shows their daughter was killed by McCarthy in 2013 through blunt trauma to the head and violent shaking.
"For the parents who can't bring Rehma back, they want to set the record straight," Coakley said in a telephone interview.
McCarthy, who has consistently denied she ever harmed the child, was indicted on murder charges three years ago in a case that received global attention, but the charges were dropped last August. Prosecutors had said Rehma's brain swelling, head bruises, eye damage, and other forensic evidence showed that she was killed, but McCarthy's defense attorneys offered medical experts proposing alternative causes for her death, such as an uncommon bleeding disorder or an immune deficiency issue. A medical examiner ultimately changed the manner of death from homicide to "undetermined," leading to the charges being dropped by prosecutors.
It was not easy for Rehma's parents to locate McCarthy in Ireland, where she was deported following the dropped prosecution because she had been living illegally in the United States. After the lawsuit was filed in February, the parents asked for, and received, an extension of time.
According to a court record, a Belfast investigator working for a firm hired by Rehma's parents approached a blonde-haired woman in her 30s in a home in County Cork, Ireland, asking her, "Are you Aisling Brady McCarthy?" The woman replied, "Yes I am."
When the case was filed last winter, one of McCarthy's criminal attorneys, Melinda Thompson, said Rehma's parents were "compounding the tragedy" of their child's death by filing this lawsuit. She said that their medical evidence showed Rehma may have had preexisting medical issues contributing to her death and that McCarthy deserves to try to rebuild her life in Ireland.
Coakley, the former attorney general in Massachusetts, said she has received no word that McCarthy has retained an attorney in this civil case. According to lawyers familiar with wrongful death cases, if McCarthy remains unresponsive, Rehma's parents will be able to argue — unopposed — for some type of judgment. Coakley said Rehma's parents will seek, among other considerations, "injunctive relief that would not allow the defendant to profit from selling her story."
"Nada and I took this step solely to ensure that the truth is told and that she does not ever profit financially from the death of our daughter, Rehma. Today brings us closer to this goal," Sameer Sabir said.
Patricia Wen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @GlobePatty.