“The U.S. Court of Appeals has affirmed a ruling that Child Protective Services workers cannot be sued in the death of Calista Springer, a Centreville teenager who died in a 2008 fire, after being chained to her bed.
The Department of Human Services clearly knew about complaints of ongoing abuse by Calista’s parents, the three-judge panel said in a 13-page opinion issued last week.
But the court ruled the state workers couldn’t be sued for failure to remove Springer from her Centreville home.
Calista died in a house fire, after being tied to her bed, in February 2008.
The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by Suzanne Langdon, Calista’s grandmother, in the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. In 2011, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell dismissed the action, before Langdon and her attorney decided to appeal with the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals.
The suit claims that St. Joseph County protective services caseworker Patricia Skelding and supervisor Cynthia Bare failed to adequately respond to “a long and documented history of the abuse” at the hands of Calista’s parents, Anthony and Marsha Springer.
Allegations of abuse began in April 1995 and included claims of lead poisoning, untreated burns, physical and emotional abuse and being restrained to her bed and locked in her room.
The Springers are currently serving lengthy prison sentences after they were found guilty by a jury of torture and child abuse but not murder.
The lawsuit argues that Calista would have survived if she had been protected by CPS from the abuse.
But the court said in its opinion that the state is not obligated under due process rights to protect citizens from other citizens. The judges also said the defendants didn’t take an “affirmative action that made Calista less safe.”
The judges called the case “undeniably tragic,” but ruled the defendants hadn’t violated Calista’s due process rights.
Langdon filed three separate lawsuits in 2010, including the action in the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. The other two suits were filed in the state Court of Claims and St. Joseph County Circuit Court.
Both of those cases have also been dismissed.”
[M live 4/25/13 by Aaron Mueller]
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