The wrongful death lawsuit over the murder of 38-year-old Erika Peters and her two young sons also maintains that the city failed to protect the family from Peters' boyfriend who was a known child abuser.

City officials were aware of Joseph Mays' abusive habits as early as 2007, when the District's Child and Family Services Agency received calls on its hotline that Mays was abusing the children, city officials said at the time of the murders. The agency began an investigation and opened a child protection case after Mays allegedly violently shook and injured a toddler.

But the lawsuit claims the police officers responding to the 911 call from Peters' apartment weren't aware of any of that history. Had the information been shared, the suit contends, the officers might have acted differently and lives could have been saved.

The D.C. Council is currently considering legislation that is designed to help fix that problem. CFSA would be required to share case information with police departments. Under current regulations, police typically need a court order to learn about child abuse cases.

But child protection experts say those laws don't go far enough in making CFSA and juvenile justice documents accessible so the public can hold officials responsible.

"Vulnerable children need those whose actions affect their lives to be accountable," Matt Fraidin, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia who has taken on the foster care system, wrote in a letter to the council. "If, as at present, lawyers, judges, social workers, and politicians do not have to answer for their choices and decisions that affect children, those decisions will continue to be haphazard."