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Case arising out of molestation not reported by DCS divides court

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A lawsuit brought by parents against the Department of Child Services and Evansville Police Department for not informing them of their daughter’s molestation led each judge on the Court of Appeals panel to write his or her own opinion. The only thing the judges agreed on is that the police department is not a proper party to the case.

The parents of 2-year-old F.D. sued DCS, the police department and the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office for failing to notify them of the alleged molestation of their daughter by 12-year-old cousin L.C. During an investigation of alleged molestation of their 4-year-old son by L.C., DCS caseworker Melissa Cage and police learned that L.C. admitted to molesting other victims, including F.D.

According to the court records, a detective told Cage of L.C.’s admission, to which she said she would contact the newly named victims and let the detective know if any indicated being molested. The detective and Cage never informed the parents of F.D. The mother did not find out her daughter had been molested until nearly a year later.

In F.D., G.D., and T.D. b/n/f J.D. and M.D.; J.D. and M.D., Individually v. Indiana Dept. of Family Services, Vanderburgh Co. Office of Family & Social Services, Evansville Police Dept., et al., 82A01-1109-CT-432, Judges Nancy Vaidik, Terry Crone, and Cale Bradford agreed that the police department wasn’t a property party to the litigation and is “merely a vehicle through which the city government fulfils its policy functions.” Regarding whether Indiana Code 31-33-18-4 creates a private right of action against DCS is where the judges split. Vaidik and Bradford found that the parents don’t have a private right of action.

“Therefore, since the statutory duty imposed under Indiana Code section 31-33-18-4 is for the public’s benefit, we have explicitly held that there is no private right of action for failure to report child abuse, and we have expressed a reluctance to create a private right of action absent codification in this area, we hold that the parents do not have a private right of action …” Vaidik wrote in the majority opinion to which Bradford concurred.

“However, this is not meant to suggest that we condone the way that this matter was handled by Child Services and the Police Department,” she continued. “We sympathize with the parents and understand their frustration that they were not informed that their daughter had been molested until a year after the fact. However, our legislature has not afforded a private right of action in these situations, so we must hold accordingly.”

Vaidik then ruled that even if the parents did have a private right of action, DCS would still be immune under the Indiana Tort Claims Act because its actions in this case constitute the initiation of a judicial proceeding. Bradford dissented on this point, and agreed with Crone that DCS doesn’t have immunity under I.C. 34-13-3-3(6).

Crone believed the statute implicitly creates a private right of action, or at very least, that the issue is an inappropriate basis for affirming summary judgment in favor of DCS. Also, DCS has no authority to initiate juvenile proceedings, only the prosecutor does, he wrote. He also felt there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the detective told Cage about L.C.’s admission to molesting F.D.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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