Justia Juvenile Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Z.V. v. County of Riverside
Z.V., then 15 years old and in foster care, was sexually assaulted by Riverside County social worker Birdsong in September 2009. Z.V. sought to hold Birdsong’s employer, Riverside County, responsible for the assault under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The trial court rejected the theory. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that Birdsong was not Z.V.’s assigned social worker, he merely volunteered to transport Z.V. to a new foster home at the end of the workday. The sexual assault took place after 8:30 at night, several hours after Birdsong’s shift would have normally finished, and after he had already completed the task of delivering Z.V. to the new home without incident. It was several hours after the delivery that Birdsong went back to pick up Z.V. under the pretext of building “rapport,” took him to a liquor store and then to Birdsong’s own apartment, where the attack took place. View "Z.V. v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law
In re Anthony S.
Anthony S., then 15 years old, admitted an assault with a firearm, in which he and a co-defendant seriously wounded Houston, resulting in a hospital bill of more than $400,000. The hospital has not attempted to collect from Houston, having determined that he was indigent and the debt was uncollectable. At a hearing to set restitution, a hospital representative testified that after a debt is written off as uncollectable, the hospital generally makes no further attempt to recover it. Nevertheless, the juvenile court t set restitution at 20 percent of $412,546.89 with a credit of $1,000 for the amount that Anthony had already paid to the victim restitution fund, with Anthony and his parents jointly and severally liable. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the restitution order was contrary to Welfare and Institutions Code section 730.6 because there was insufficient evidence of economic loss to Houston. View "In re Anthony S." on Justia Law
Bryan v. Erie Cnty. Office of Children & Youth
In 2001, the Bryan family’s adopted son, J.O., repeatedly raped and molested his younger foster brother, K.B., in the room the boys shared. After weeks of abuse, K.B. told his foster parents, who contacted the Erie County Office of Children and Youth (ECOCY), which had facilitated J.O.’s adoption, and had J.O. removed from their home. The Bryans blamed ECOCY for K.B.’s ordeal, claiming that ECOCY employees concealed J.O.’s history of violent behavior and sexual misconduct. The Bryans sued ECOCY and seven employees under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on a theory that permits recovery from state actors when “the state’s own actions create the very danger that causes the plaintiff’s injury.” During trial, the parties agreed to a high-low settlement. Regardless of the verdict, the Bryan family was to receive at least $900,000 and defendants were to pay no more than $2.7 million. The jury returned an $8.6 million verdict; the defendants tendered $2.7 million. The Bryans claimed breach of the settlement agreement’s confidentiality clause, rendering the deal unenforceable. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide whether to enforce those terms or the verdict. The Third Circuit remanded. The case was not dismissed, nor was the verdict satisfied. A district court’s jurisdiction does not terminate at the moment jury deliberations do. View "Bryan v. Erie Cnty. Office of Children & Youth" on Justia Law
Jasinski v. Tyler
After her child was murdered by his father, the mother sued employees of county and state Child Protective Services (CPS) and others,, alleging negligence; violations of constitutional rights (42 U.S.C. 1983); and violation of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act--Adoption and Safe Families Act, 42 U.S.C. 670, and of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. 5106. The complaint alleged that from 1998-2007, CPS received numerous complaints about the father’s abuse and neglect of the child and his siblings. The district court rejected a defense of qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The contours of the substantive due process right to be free from government action increasing the risk of harm was not sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that pursuing the father for use of a cattle prod, while failing to immediately remove the child, would violate the child’s substantive due process rights. Given previous cases, it is not clear that a reasonable CPS official would understand that failure to seek termination of parental rights would constitute denial of procedural due process. Without ignoring the father’s role in causing the child’s death, CPS employees’ conduct cannot be said to be the “most immediate, efficient, and direct cause” of the injury. View "Jasinski v. Tyler" on Justia Law
Hunt v. Delaware
A vice principal of an elementary school asked a Delaware State Trooper to come to the school give a talk about bullying to four or five fifth grade students who were under “in-school suspension.” The next day, the principal was told that there had been a bullying incident involving an autistic student whose money had been taken from him on the school bus by "AB." The principal told AB’s mother about the incident, and asked her permission to have the officer talk to AB. AB’s mother consented. The officer arrived and was told what happened. The principal and officer went to a room where AB was waiting. The principal was called away, leaving the officer alone with AB. The officer got AB to admit that he had the money (one dollar), but AB claimed that another student had taken the money. AB said that he did not know that other student’s name, but that the student was seated with AB on the school bus. Without discussing the matter with the principal, the officer followed up on AB’s claim despite being virtually certain that AB was the perpetrator. The officer obtained the bus seating chart, found AB's seat-mate, brought the two students together and questioned that student in the same manner as AB. According to the other child, the officer used a mean voice and told him 11 or 12 times that he had the authority to arrest the children and place them in jail if they did not tell the truth. AB finally admitted to taking the money from the autistic student. When he got home from school, the seat-mate told his mother what had happened. The child withdrew from school and was home schooled for the rest of that school year. The mother filed suit on her son’s behalf, as well as individually, against the Cape Henlopen School District, the Board of Education of Cape Henlopen School District, the principal, the State, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Division of the Delaware State Police, and the officer, Trooper Pritchett (collectively, Pritchett). Charges against all but the officer were eventually settled or dismissed; Pritchett successfully moved for summary judgment, and this appeal followed. Viewing the record in the light most favorable to the child, the Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence to raise issues of material fact on all claims against the officer except a battery claim. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Hunt v. Delaware" on Justia Law
Woods v. IL Dep’t of Children & Family Servs.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed Woods, then seven years old from his parents’ home in 1991 and placed him in a residential treatment facility. There had been many reports of sexual abuse among residents of the facility and Woods, claiming to have been abused by another resident, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the suit as untimely because Woods failed to bring his claim within two years of its accrual, rejecting Woods’s contention that the 20-year limitations period applicable in Illinois to personal injury claims based on childhood sexual abuse applied. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The limitations period applicable to all Section 1983 claims brought in Illinois is two years, as provided in 735 ILCS 5/13-202, and this includes claims involving allegations of failure to protect from childhood sexual abuse. View "Woods v. IL Dep't of Children & Family Servs." on Justia Law
N. R. Doe v. St. Francis Sch. Dist.
A suit on behalf of a 14-year-old, eighth grade boy alleged that the failure of the public school district to prevent sexual abuse by a female teacher violated the student’s rights under Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681, and constituted negligent infliction of emotional distress under Wisconsin law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the school district; claims against the teacher remain pending. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In a private suit under Title IX, a school district cannot be held liable on the ground of respondeat superior for an employee’s violation absent proof of actual notice and deliberate indifference. That other teachers suspected improper conduct and administrators investigated and accepted the teacher’s denials does not establish knowledge or deliberate indifference. . View "N. R. Doe v. St. Francis Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Whitney v. Div. of Juvenile Justice Servs.
Dillon Whitney's mother filed a wrongful death suit against the State after Dillon died while in state custody. The State filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that it was exempt from suit under the incarceration exception to the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah. The federal district court denied the motion, and the State appealed. The Supreme Court accepted certification to answer a question of state law and held (1) a juvenile who is placed in an unsecured community-based proctor home is not incarcerated in a place of legal confinement; and (2) accordingly, the incarceration exception to the State's waiver of its sovereign immunity did not apply in this case, and the State remained potentially liable for damages related to Dillon's death. View "Whitney v. Div. of Juvenile Justice Servs." on Justia Law
Valley Forge Ins. Co. v. Field
An 11-year-old child suffered long-term horrific abuse and, in 2005, was beaten nearly to death by her adoptive mother and stepfather. The child's legal guardian, brought suit against Carson Center and one of its employees, a licensed social worker, alleging that they failed to detect or report signs of ongoing physical abuse. The state court suit led to insurance coverage litigation in federal court. Insurers sought a declaratory judgment that the allegations fell within exclusions to coverage. The First Circuit affirmed entry of declaratory judgment for the insurers. The language of the policy exclusions precludes coverage for abuse that occurs to anyone in the insureds' "care, custody or control." At the time of the abuse the victim was not in the physical custody of the insureds, but had been receiving bi-weekly outpatient therapeutic services from them for 14 months covered by the policies in question. The exclusions are unambiguous. View "Valley Forge Ins. Co. v. Field" on Justia Law
Christy v. McCalla
The Supreme Court granted a writ application to determine whether a school board had tort liability for expelling a high school student after a fifth-sized bottle of whiskey fell from the student's backpack and broke on the classroom floor. The student claimed he was denied due process in the disciplinary proceedings that resulted in his expulsion. The district court agreed and awarded the student $50,000. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court found that the student presented no evidence whatsoever of being denied due process at the school board hearing. Finding the student failed to carry his burden of proof to show a denial of due process by the school board, the Court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "Christy v. McCalla" on Justia Law