Friday, March 2, 2012

Calista Springer's estate can't sue state workers for her death, court rules

Blogger note:
We hope that these families moves their suits to federal court (section 42 USC 1983) where state workers are less likely to be granted immunity for their lack of action (crimes). Once again, a child who was truly in danger but CPS turns a blind eye. Likely because they were too busy chasing innocent parents and kidnapping their children.

By Emily Monacelli

CENTREVILLE -- The family of Calista Springer cannot sue the state for her death, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Springer's grandmother, Suzanne Langdon, acting as a representative of Calista's estate, sued the Michigan Department of Human Services and St. Joseph County Child Protective Services in October 2010, asserting that state workers failed to protect Calista from her parents, which resulted in her death.

Calista was 16 when she was found chained to her bed in an upstairs room in her family's Centreville home following a February 2008 house fire.

The appeals court combined Springer's case with that of Nicholas Daniel Braman, whose estate also sued child protective services workers after Braman's father killed Nicholas, himself and his wife in October 2007 in Montcalm County. In both cases, the court ruled that the children's estates could not sue state workers for allegedly improperly acting upon allegations of abuse.

Read the 11-page opinion issued Thursday here.

"Although plaintiffs recited several failures by the employee defendants to comply with their official CPS investigation policies and guidelines, these failures merely prove the state's failure to act, not that it was acting pursuant to a mandatory policy of inaction," the appeals court ruling says.

"Plaintiffs do not point to any official policy or custom that mandated CPS investigators to improperly investigate the abuse allegations against the decedents' parents or to fail to protect the decedents," the opinion reads.

State workers found "insufficient evidence" to substantiate allegations made against Springer's and Braman's parents, and had no basis to remove the children from their homes, according to the court.

"While the facts of these cases are indeed tragic, this is not an appropriate case in which to impose a damage remedy on the state for a state constitutional due process violation, as no violation can be established," the opinion says.

Calista's grandmother filed three separate lawsuits in October 2010, one in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, one in the state Court of Claims in Lansing, and a third in St. Joseph County Circuit Court. Each demand jury trials and seek awards “in excess of $75,000.”

The court filings provided information from Michigan State Police records about abuse and neglect complaints that Langdon said were filed by family members, teachers, a mental-health worker, friends and acquaintances.

The suits claimed St. Joseph County protective services caseworker Patricia Skelding and supervisor Cynthia Bare failed to adequately respond to documented abuse from Calista's parents, Anthony and Marsha Springer. Langdon's federal suit also named as defendants former state DHS director Marianna Udow; her chief deputy, Laura Champagne; and former state manager of DHS Child Protective Services programs Ted Forrest.

A jury in February 2010 found Anthony and Marsha Springer guilty of torture and child abuse in Calista's death. They were each sentenced to prison terms.

Allegations of abuse and neglect against the Springers began in April 1995 and included accusations of lead poisoning, untreated burns, physical and emotional abuse, restraint by ropes, and being locked in her bedroom.


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