Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel

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Public Protection: Minors

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Public Protection: Civil Liability for Failure to Protect Minors, 2016 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability and Child Abuse Investigations -- Part 1, 2017 (4) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.

      Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability and Child Abuse Investigations -- Part 2, 2017 (5) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability and Child Abuse Investigations -- Part 3, 2017 (6) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.


    A police officer arrived at an apartment building in response to a complaint about minors drinking outdoors there. A minor white female drinking with a group of three African-American males, was so intoxicated that she could not stand up by herself, so one of them had to hold her up from behind. The officer arrived and talked to the males, allowing them to leave with the female without asking for identification. One of the males was on probation for armed robbery and the other two males were minors. The three males then carried the female to a laundry room, and the apartment site manager again called police. Officers arrived and caught the probationer sexually assaulting the girl in the laundry room. In a failure to protect lawsuit, a federal appeals court found that the officer had not created the danger to the girl or done anything to make it worse. He was entitled to qualified immunity from liability. The court also rejected arguments that the officer was a racist who wanted the girl to come to harm because she as white and socializing with African-Americans. The plaintiff's reference to another incident in which the officer while operating an unmarked police car, ran over and killed an eight-year-old African-American boy and lied to cover it up was not similar to the immediate incident, and any connection was speculative. Doe v. Vill. of Arlington Heights, #14-1461, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 5972 (7th Cir.).
     Officers were entitled to qualified immunity for temporarily physically separating a twenty-one-month-old male infant from his mother. The child became entangled in a soccer net, and was extricated by his mother, who found him not breathing. Officers summoned to the scene saw strangulation marks on the child and declared the area a crime scene. The mother was taken away because she kept screaming threats of suicide. The child died, and the mother sued, claiming that the officers' actions slowed down the efforts of paramedics to save him. There was no clearly established due process duty to provide protection and medical treatment to the child in these circumstances. Cantrell v. City of Murphy, #1041138, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 63 (5th Cir.).
     State social workers and agency were not liable for the accidental shooting and death of a child in foster care. Their alleged repeated failure to check the foster home for the presence of unsecured firearms did not "shock the conscience." Additionally, the state agency could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 because of Eleventh Amendment immunity. McLean v. Gordon, No. 07-2250, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 24298,  (8th Cir.).
     State agency's alleged delay in reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minor to law enforcement could not be the basis for a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages for the subsequent alleged murder of the minor by the alleged abuser. This conduct did not create the danger to the minor, who remained in the custody of her mother, who was aware of the allegations of abuse. Estate of Pond v. Oregon, 322 F. Supp. 2d 1161 (D. Ore. 2004). [N/R]
     Federal appeals court, in case where estranged husband took and murdered his three minor daughters, in violation of domestic protection order, rules that such an order, when enforcement is required by a state statute, creates a property interest protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Claims against city for failing to enforce order are reinstated, but individual officers were entitled to qualified immunity. Gonzales v. Castle Rock, #01-1053, 366 F.3d 1093 (10th Cir. en banc, 2004). [2004 LR Sep]
     Police officer did not create a danger to a child by leaving her at a convenience store after allegedly mistakenly arresting her mother. The child was left with a responsible adult known to her family, and the child was not placed in any actual danger. Under the circumstances, the officer's actions in relation to the child were not objectively unreasonable. Craddock v. Hicks, 314 F. Supp. 2d 648 (N.D. Miss. 2003). [N/R]
     Adoptive parents of child could not recover damages against county or county employees based on constitutional claim that they failed to protect the child from physical abuse by the child's natural mother. The governmental defendants did not create the danger at issue or have any special relationship imposing a duty of care, as the alleged injuries occurred when the child was in the care of his natural mother prior to his removal from the home. Robbins v. Cumberland County Children and Youth Services, 802 A.2d 1239 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002). [N/R]
     328:59 California statute imposed mandatory duty on police to investigate reports of child abuse, and to file reports with child protective agencies when the investigation leads to reasonable suspicion of such abuse; complete failure to investigate a report of child abuse stated a claim for "negligence per se." Alejo v. City of Alhambra, No. B130088, 89 Cal. Rtr. 2d 768 (1999).
     EDITOR'S NOTE: See also S.S. v. McMullen, #98-1732, 186 F.3d 1066 (8th Cir. 1999), holding that an eight-year-old child, placed back in the custody of her father by state employees despite alleged knowledge that the father associated with a convicted pedophile stated a claim under the "state-created danger" exception to the general rule that the government has no duty to provide protection to anyone from third-party violence.

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