Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Steven Smith, as conservator of the estate of B.J. (minor), appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Elizabeth Alexander, Amanda Buchanan, and Michael Key on Smith's claims alleging violations of policies promulgated by the State Department of Human Resources ("the State DHR"), negligence, wantonness, and the tort of outrage. In May 2015, Key was employed by the Cullman County DHR as a foster-care supervisor, responsible for supervising Cullman County DHR caseworkers. Key reported to Buchanan, who oversaw the Child Family Services Program, the Child Protective Services Program, and the Foster Care Program for the Cullman County DHR. Buchanan in turn reported to Alexander, the director of the Cullman County DHR. B.J. was placed in the custody of the Cullman County DHR when he was three years old after having suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect at the hands of family members. In 2002, the trial court awarded the Cullman County DHR legal guardianship and permanent custody of B.J. While in the custody of the Cullman County DHR, B.J. was placed in a number of foster homes, group homes, residential facilities, hospitals, and psychiatric institutions. In July 2014, B.J. was placed by the Cullman County DHR at the Altapointe Group Home. While there, B.J. underwent an assessment, which revealed he had regularly exhibited violent outbursts and physically aggressive behavior toward others; he had a history of depression, suicide and delusional thinking; and engaged in impulsive and delinquent behavior. B.J. would ultimately be arrested for such behavior towards others. B.J. had personal funds with which he could post bail, but the decision was made he should have remained in jail pending an arrangement for further mental health counseling. Smith argued defendants' decisions leaving B.J. incarcerated did not follow departmental policies of least-restrictive-placement-possible, and as such, caused B.J. irreparable harm. The Alabama Supreme Court found that each crucial decision made by the defendants -- i.e., the decisions not to place B.J. at the Gateway facility and not to post B.J.'s bond before his court date -- were made with B.J.'s best interests in mind after consideration of all the relevant recommendations and factors. Accordingly, Smith failed to provide substantial evidence demonstrating that the defendants acted willfully in dealing with B.J. and that, therefore, they were not entitled to the protection of State-agent immunity. View "Smith v. Alexander, et al." on Justia Law

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When E.D. was 17 years old, a high school teacher began engaging in sex with her in his classroom. The situation was discovered after several months. The teacher admitted engaging in sexual intercourse with E.D. 10-20 times while she was a minor. The principal had previously disciplined the teacher for inappropriate contact with a student but the conduct had not been reported to authorities; no steps were taken to monitor the teacher’s contact with other female students. E.D. brought claims against the teacher for sexual abuse, against the school defendants for negligence and breach of statutory duties in failing to adequately supervise teachers and protect students, and against all the defendants for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; her foster mother joined in the claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. They alleged that they were not required to present a claim to the School District under the Government Claims Act (Gov. Code 810) due to the exemption for claims of sexual abuse of a minor, section 905(m). The District had enacted its own claim presentation requirement, purportedly overriding section 905(m)The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of E.D.’s causes of action. The Legislature has consistently expanded the ability of childhood sexual abuse victims to seek compensation but it is not clear that it intended to provide relatives the same rights as direct victims. View "Coats v. New Haven Unified School District" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this matter centered on whether a person bringing a tort claim against a governmental entity for alleged child abuse had to comply with the notice requirement of the Idaho Tort Claims Act. Seven individuals (collectively, the Juveniles) filed suit alleging they had been abused while they were minors in the custody of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. In its ruling on summary judgment, the district court found the Juveniles’ claims based on Idaho Code section 6-1701 were not barred by the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act. The Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections and its employees moved for permission to appeal, which was granted, and they argued the district court erred by allowing the Juveniles’ claims to proceed. The Idaho Supreme Court held that because of the plain language of the ITCA, the notice requirement applied to claims based on tort actions in child abuse cases. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "D.A.F. v. Lieteau and Juvenile Corrections Nampa" on Justia Law

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The district court held that when a minor's parents bring a lawsuit on his behalf as next friends, the statute of limitations for those claims is not tolled during his period of minority if they were aggressively litigated through the prior lawsuit. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court improperly created this exception to Texas's tolling provision to its statute of limitations, and thus reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's claims related to serious and sustained injuries he suffered while he was detained at a juvenile detention center. The court held that the district court erred by fashioning a rule of its own making to find that plaintiff forfeited the protection of Texas's tolling provision when his parents had brought suit as next friends. The court remanded for further proceedings, including consideration of res judicata and other issues presented. View "Clyce v. Butler" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Jaryd Schroeder sought treatment from the respondents, Dr. Steven Weighall and Columbia Basin Imaging. Schroeder was nine years old at the time and suffered from headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness in his legs, and double vision. He underwent an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which Weighall reviewed and found to be normal. Schroeder's symptoms persisted. On either November 9 or 19, 2009, when he was 17, Schroeder underwent another MRI. This time the radiologist who reviewed the image found an Arnold Chiari Type I Malformation. On January 13, 2011, the day before his 19th birthday, Schroeder filed a medical malpractice action against Weighall, Columbia Basin Imaging, PC, and a third party subsequently dismissed by stipulation. Weighall asserted that the action was barred by the statute of limitations codified at RCW 4.16.350 and subject to the minority tolling exemption codified at RCW 4.16.190(2). Schroeder and his mother discovered Weighall's alleged omission November 2009 when Schroeder was still a minor. If not for RCW 4.16.190(2), the one-year statute of limitations applicable to his claim would have tolled until his 18th birthday. The ultimate issue before the Supreme Court was the constitutionality of RCW 4. 16. 190(2). Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that RCW 4.16.190(2) violated article I, section 12 of the Washington State Constitution, and therefore reversed the trial court's summary judgment order dismissing Schroeder's medical malpractice action. View "Schroeder v. Weighall" on Justia Law

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A Jefferson County Sheriff Deputy was transporting two juveniles from a court hearing. The two were seated in the rear of the transport van, handcuffed. En route, another driver allegedly turned into an intersection without yielding and collided with the transport van. As a result of the collision, the juveniles sustained multiple injuries. The juveniles sued the County, alleging the deputy transporting them was negligent. The County claimed it was immune from suit. The trial court denied the County's motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. Upon review of the County's appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in finding allegations of negligence alone were sufficient to overcome the statutory grant of immunity and the presumption of good faith afforded to law enforcement. The Court vacated the trial court's order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Young v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

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Minor Nicholas Proulx was injured in a car accident and treated for his injuries at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. Nicholas' parents Timothy and Hope Proulx obtained letters of guardianship and petitioned the chancery court for authority to compromise and settle Nicholas' personal injury claim. The guardians also asked the court to dismiss claims against the settlement proceeds made b several medical providers, including Memorial. Memorial appealed the dismissal of its claim against the settlement. Because Memorial had no assignment, lien or other legal right to payment from the settlement proceeds, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court's dismissal of Memorial's claim.View "Memorial Hospital at Gulfport v. Proulx" on Justia Law