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California Supreme Court rules in child death case

Posted: July 6, 2012 3:00 p.m.
Updated: July 6, 2012 3:00 p.m.
 

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Welfare officials can take children from parents who negligently cause the death of a son or daughter, such as failing to place them in a car seat, even if there was no criminal harm, the California Supreme Court ruled.

The court ruled Thursday that a "breach of ordinary care" with fatal results is enough reason for child welfare agencies to act because it poses an inherent concern for the safety of siblings, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"When a parent's or guardian's negligence has led to the tragedy of a child's death, the dependency court should have the power to intervene," Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote for the court.

"It's a big case for us, and it is a big case for the child welfare community," said Assistant County Counsel James M. Owens, who represented the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

The case involved the 2009 death of an 18-month-old girl in South Los Angeles. Her father was driving her to a hospital after she fell off a bed and hurt her arm, according to court documents.

The baby was sitting on her aunt's lap when another car ran a stop sign and hit their vehicle.

Social workers later found signs of neglect at the home and placed the girl's two young brothers in foster care for more than a year.

The father, identified in court papers only as William C., got them back after taking parenting courses, but he challenged the county's action.

His attorney, Christopher Blake, said the court's ruling was too broad.

"It will make it too easy for children to be removed from their parents when their parents make a tragic mistake," he said.

 

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

 

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