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COA: rehearing petition another example of how DCS ‘dropped the ball’ in case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals granted the rehearing petitions of the Department of Child Services and a family who had a child removed from their care and re-examined the family’s federal civil rights claims and claims under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. The judges also chided DCS’ counsel for submitting a new document in the petition for rehearing that was not part of the record on appeal.

In D.L., Glen Black, Ann Black, Steven Lucas, and K.L., by her Next Friend, D.L. v. Christine Huck, Laura Zimmerman, Angela Smith Grossman, Rhonda Friend, Angyl McClaine, and IN. Dept. of Child Svcs., 79A04-1202-CT-61, DCS petitioned for rehearing on the October 2012 decision in which the appellate court denied DCS quasi-judicial immunity. Glen Black and other family members sued DCS and several employees after the DCS appeared unannounced at Glen and Ann Black’s home and removed K.L. from their custody. The Blacks sought to adopt K.L., but DCS said it found a child abuse report against Glen Black from 20 years prior. DCS never investigated the report further and declined to place K.L. with her grandfather. She was instead returned to her biological father, D.L.

“DCS knew that quasi-judicial immunity was an issue on appeal — in fact DCS itself first supplied the notion of quasi-judicial immunity in its memo in support of the motion to dismiss — and yet failed to provide or even refer to this document to the trial court, or to us in its reply on appeal, at oral argument, or by a motion to supplement the record at any time during the appeal. It seems that this is one more example of the ball being dropped by DCS in this case, and DCS may not supplement the record now,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote.

Turning to the family’s petition for rehearing, the judges found that their interpretation of Indiana Code 31-25-2-2.5 does not conflict with the Indiana Tort Claims Act. Read together, a suit against DCS as an entity should be allowed to proceed even if vicarious and even if the suit against the employee is barred, but only for those claims that fall within the ITCA. All other vicarious liability against DCS would be extinguished under I.C. 31-25-2-2.5.

The Court of Appeals allowed tort claims against DCS to proceed under a theory of vicarious liability within the ITCA. It also allowed federal civil rights claims to proceed.

The judges affirmed that grandfather Steven Lucas does not have standing to assert a claim for DCS’ failure to consider him for home placement. DCS has no obligation to place K.L. with Lucas and it appears that DCS did consider him but felt he was not suitable to care for the child.

 

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