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Arledge v. Franklin County Children's Services Board

September 29, 2006

FRANCES F. ARLEDGE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FRANKLIN COUNTY CHILDREN'S SERVICES BOARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Michael H. Watson

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are the following:

1. The April 6, 2005 Motion of Plaintiffs Jay Mitchell and Frances Arledge, as Executor and Executrix of the Estate of Daniel Mitchell (hereinafter collectively "Plaintiffs") for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 45). Defendants Franklin County Children Services Board, Franklin County, John Saros, Jessie Looser, Sarah Tornichio, and Dana Colon (hereinafter collectively "Defendants") filed a Memorandum Contra on April 27, 2005 (Doc. 51). Plaintiffs filed a Reply Memorandum on May 9, 2005 (Doc. 53).

2. The April 6, 2005 Motion of Defendants for Summary Judgment (Doc. 47). Plaintiffs filed a Memorandum Contra on May 2, 2005 (Doc. 52). Defendants filed a Reply Memorandum on May 16. 2005 (Doc. 54).

3. The September 26, 2005 Motion in Limine of Defendants (Doc. 70). Plaintiffs filed a Response on October 4, 2005 (Doc. 78).

4. The September 26, 2005 Motion in Limine of Defendants (Doc. 71). Plaintiffs filed a Response on October 4, 2005 (Doc. 78).

5. The September 26, 2005 Motion in Limine of Defendants (Doc. 72). Plaintiffs filed a Response on October 4, 2005 (Doc. 78).

6. The September 26, 2005 Motion in Limine of Defendants (Doc. 73). Plaintiffs filed a Response on October 4, 2005 (Doc. 78).

7. The September 26, 2005 Motion in Limine of Defendants (Doc. 74). Plaintiffs filed a Response on October 4, 2005 (Doc. 78).

8. The September 26, 2005 Motion in Limine of Defendants (Doc. 75). Plaintiffs filed a Response on October 4, 2005 (Doc. 78).

9. The September 26, 2005 Motion in Limine of Defendants (Doc. 76). Plaintiffs filed a Response on October 4, 2005 (Doc. 78).

10. The December 14, 2005 Motion of Defendants to Dismiss for Failure to Join a Party Under Rule 19 (Doc. 89). Plaintiffs filed a Memorandum Contra on December 28, 2005 (Doc. 90). Defendants filed a Reply Memorandum on January 10, 2006 (Doc. 94).

11. The January 9, 2006 Motion of Defendants for Reconsideration (Doc. 93) Plaintiffs filed a Memorandum Contra on January 19, 2006 (Doc. 95).

These matter are ripe for review. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. FACTS

Plaintiffs are the parents of Daniel Mitchell. At the time of the events described herein, Daniel was 15-years old (Depo. Mitchell, p. 12). In 1998, Plaintiffs separated and Ms. Arledge voluntarily agreed Mr. Mitchell would retain custody of Daniel (Id., 55). Notwithstanding this agreement, Daniel lived with Ms. Arledge two years prior to October 21, 2002, at which time Daniel began living with Mr. Mitchell (Id., p. 68; Depo. Arledge, p. 19).*fn1

On October 23, 2002, Mr. Mitchell prepared to take Daniel to register for classes at Grove City High School (Depo. Mitchell, p. 96). Prior to leaving, Mr. Mitchell asked Daniel to remove his lip piercing (Id.) Daniel refused and Mr. Mitchell attempted to remove it himself. Mr. Mitchell then called Franklin County Children Services (hereinafter "FCCS") for guidance with the situation (Id., p. 99). A FCCS employee advised Mr. Mitchell to call the Grove City Police Department, which Mr. Mitchell did (Id., p. 99, 101). However, prior to calling the police, Mr. Mitchell grabbed Daniel by his shirt, put him on the ground and sat on him (Id., p. 106). When the police arrived, they arrested Mr. Mitchell for domestic violence (Id.

Upon Mr. Mitchell's arrest, the police transported Daniel to the FCCS intake center for placement (Depo. Looser, pp. 32, 98). Shelley Schalip (hereinafter "Schalip"), a lead screener for FCCS, completed an Intake/Emergency Referral Form*fn2 for Daniel (Depo. Schalip, pp. 17, 19). In October, 2002, the screening process including a perpetrator check to determine whether the Mitchell family had a history with FCCS as well as a criminal background check for Franklin County (Id., pp. 28-29). The Mitchell family had a history (Id., p. 34-35).

Ms. Schalip interviewed the Grove City police officers and learned Daniel wanted to live with either his mother or Stephen and Lena Powers (Id. p. 21). Ms. Schalip decided Daniel should be transferred to the FCCS investigative unit for an interview with caseworkers (Id., p. 45). She did not contact Ms. Arledge (Id., p. 45).

Dana Colon, the supervisor in the investigative unit, assigned Daniel's case to investigative caseworkers Sarah Tornichio and Jesse Looser (Depo. of Colon, pp. 27-29). Mr. Looser acted as Ms. Tornichio's mentor as it was her first referral (Depo. Looser, p. 31; Depo. Tornichio, pp. 37, 54).

Ms. Tornichio and Mr. Looser conducted an interview with Daniel on October 23, 2002 (Doc. 45, Exh. C). During the interview, they questioned Daniel regarding the incident with his father and asked him with whom he could live (Id.). Daniel provided Mr. Powers' name (Id.).

Prior to meeting with Daniel, Mr. Looser contacted Mr. Powers to determine whether he would allow Daniel to stay in his home (Doc. 45, Exh. D). Mr. Powers informed Mr. Looser he would allow Daniel to stay in his home and gave Mr. Looser directions to his home in Lockbourne, Pickaway County, Ohio (Id.). Mr. Looser also contacted Pickaway County Children's Services (hereinafter "PCCS") to determine whether the agency had any history of Stephen or Lena Powers being alleged child abuse perpetrators. Laynie Stully, an PCCS employee, notified Mr. Looser that the Powers did not have a history acting as a foster parent or as a parent with the agency (Id.). Ms. Stully informed Mr. Looser that Susan Wears, Daniel's probation officer, wanted to speak to FCCS about Daniel (Id.).

On October 23, 2002, Mr. Looser spoke with Ms. Wears who voiced her concern about placing Daniel with the Powers (Id.). She informed Mr. Looser that Mr. Powers was not Daniel's relatives (Id.). She indicated that whenever there was a concern with his parents, Daniel went to Mr. Powers (Id.). Ms. Wears told Mr. Looser she did not think it was a wise decision to place Daniel with Mr. Powers (Id.).

Daniel's placement with the Powers was subsequently approved by Ms. Colon. Mr. Looser and Ms. Tornichio transported Daniel to the Powers' residence in the afternoon of October 23, 2002. Plaintiffs were not contacted prior to Daniel's placement with the Powers to obtain their approval for the placement (Depo Looser, p. 46).

Upon arriving at the home, Ms. Tornichio was responsible for completing the Initial Home Review (hereinafter "Review") (Depo. Tornichio, p. 129). However, the Review was only partially completed, with the questions regarding whether any household members had criminal charges or convictions being left blank (Doc. 45, Exh. I). Further, while the Review required Ms. Tornichio to verify that any firearms were stored, inoperable, locked and that ammunition was stored separately and also locked, (Id.), which Ms. Tornichio marked "OK", she failed to look at the gun or the ammunition to verify this information (Depo. Tornichio, p. 117).

Unknown to Defendants, at the time of Daniel's placement with the Powers, Mr. Powers was on probation for aggravated menacing (Doc. 45, Exh. G). Specifically, on September 17, 2002, witnesses observed Mr. Powers carry a shotgun out of his home and discharge the weapon in the direction of unknown suspects (Id.).

On October 24, 2002, Ms. Wears contacted Ms. Tornichio a couple times to again express concern regarding Daniel's placement (Doc. 45, Exh. C). She indicated that Daniel gets his drugs from the trailer park and that Franklin County was placing him in a drug infested trailer park (Id., Depo. Wears, p. 21). Additionally, she informed Ms. Tornichio that Ms. Arledge was upset with the placement as Daniel was placed with strangers and not her (Doc. 45, Exh. C). Ms. Wears indicated to Ms. Tornichio that Ms. Arledge was never found to be unfit (Id.).

At approximately 10:45 p.m. on October 24, 2002, while in the living room of the Powers' residence, Mr. Powers pointed a .357 Magnum at Daniel's head and said, "Loaded or unloaded?" (Aff., Charlie Neff, ¶21). Mr. Powers then pulled the trigger and shot Daniel in the middle of his forehead (Doc. 45, Exh. M). Ms. Powers and Charlie Neff were present when the shooting occurred (Aff. Neff, ¶18-22). Daniel died at 11:36 p.m. as a result of the gunshot wound to his head. (Doc. 45, Exh. O) Mr. Powers was sentenced to ten years for manslaughter.

Plaintiffs filed the instant action on January 30, 2004 (Doc. 1). They assert the following claims:

* First Claim: Violations of 42 U.S.C. §1983 by FCCSB and Caseworkers - State Custody;

* Second Claim: Violations of 42 U.S.C. ยง1983 by FCCSB and Caseworkers - ...


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