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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. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  3. Don't believe me, listen to Pacino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6bC9w9cH-M

  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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