- Yikes! “House Committee Approves Bill Mandating That Internet Companies Spy on Their Users” [EFF; Julian Sanchez, New York Post/Cato and podcast]
- Australia courts skeptical about claim that sex injury is covered under workers’ comp [Herald Sun]
- Well-off community doesn’t need annual HUD grant, seeks to sell it [Dan Mitchell]
- Report: playful City Museum in St. Louis has taken down signs criticizing lawyers [Bill Childs/TortsProf, earlier]
- Chicago neurosurgeons pay $4500 a week in med-mal premiums, blame lawless Illinois Supreme Court [Medill Reports] Supreme Court declines to review Feres doctrine, which shields military doctors (among others) from suits [Stars and Stripes] Why is the most widely cited number of medical-misadventure deaths such an outlier? [White Coat; more here, here, etc.]
- After “Facebook broken heart” suit, will pre-nups for Mafia Wars relationships be next? [Tri-Cities Herald]
- Another horrific report of poppy seed positive drug test followed by child-grabbing [Radley Balko]
- Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s firm suing Apple, Google and many others over common web features [Atlantic Wire, Groklaw (“Allen v. World and Dog”]
- Probably not a good idea to give local authorities cash incentive to snatch kids from homes [Bader, CEI]
- Hyperlink liability case: “If I lose there won’t BE an Internet in Canada” [Ars Technica]
- Shooting spree at Denny’s results in suit charging eatery with negligent security [PNWLocalNews.com]
- More links: “Do securities lawsuits help shareholders?” [Point of Law, Bainbridge]
- Fourth Circuit revives CSX fraud suit against asbestos lawyers [Dan Fisher, Forbes] “Asbestos defendants want automatic access to info in bankruptcy trusts” [Chamber-backed LNL]
- Creation of noncompliant consumer financial product is a criminal offense under Dodd-Frank [Josh Wright, TotM]
- Man sues over seeing contestants eat rats on NBC reality show “Fear Factor” [six years ago on Overlawyered]
The New York Times brings word of a study with arresting findings published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine:
Researchers examined the records of 595 children nationwide, all at similar high risk for maltreatment, tracking them from ages 4 to 8. During those years, Child Protective Services investigated the families of 164 of these children for suspected abuse or neglect. The scientists then interviewed all the families four years later, comparing the investigated families with the 431 families that had not been investigated.
The scientists looked at several factors: social support, family functioning, poverty, caregiver education and depressive symptoms, and child anxiety, depression and aggressive behavior — all known to increase the risk for abuse or neglect. But they were unable to find any differences in the investigated families compared with the uninvestigated in any of these dimensions, except that maternal depressive symptoms were worse in households that had been visited. … They concluded that Child Protective Services investigations had little or no effect.
The researchers considered but rejected the possibility that the investigated households were inherently more dysfunctional than the comparison households but were improved enough by the investigations to achieve similar outcomes. Surprisingly or otherwise, though unable to find a positive effect, the researchers defend the continued existence of the investigation bureaus, contending that they must be doing some good. On the other hand, the pediatric journal, under the editorial headline of “Child Protective Services Has Outlived Its Usefulness,” suggests a shift toward greater reliance on nurses as opposed to investigators in cases where neglect is the issue, backed up by police in cases where treatment of children is actually criminal.
There is a possible money waste involved here, of course: Child Protective Services is a costly program, shaped by federal mandates. But any reckoning must include a less tangible cost: the devastating effects when parents are not in fact abusive or dangerous yet are put through investigations, or worse yet see their children taken away. Indeed, while it’s hard to deny that individual investigations can sometimes identify and help children in trouble, the difficulty of finding any overall effect suggests (if the study’s results are valid) that those successes may be canceled out by the instances in which investigation does harm — perhaps a bit more than canceled out, given that suggestive increase in “maternal depressive symptoms.”
For another angle on the harm investigative mistakes or zealotry can cause, here’s a Des Moines Register editorial:
Iowans are placed on the state’s child abuse registry because social workers determined they were a threat to children. Not a judge. Not a jury. Social workers who conduct abuse investigations. The accused abusers have limited time and opportunity to appeal the decision, and may wait more than a year to get their names removed if they can prove themselves innocent. If not, people remain on the registry for 10 years.
Two sisters were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by their older half-brother. This is, a federal jury decided, the fault of their pediatrician, Dr. Patricia Monroe, who failed to report the abuse–though there was no evidence she was aware of the scope of it. Monroe’s attorney “says that’s because the girl refused to speak to Monroe and because the incident wasn’t reportable to Child Protective Services.” The decision will be appealed. (Chris Knight, “Monroe to appeal $11M verdict”, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Sep. 3).
A message has been sent: make defensive reports to Child Protective Services, and parents will all be worse off when CPS overreacts.
“One of DHS’s apparent fears is that an infant isn’t safe in a home where the mother can articulate a 911 call solely in a language spoken only by some 50,000 Oaxacan Indians.” The Pascagoula, Miss. child protection authorities deny that Cirila Baltazar Cruz’s inability to speak English or Spanish played a major role in the decision to take her baby away from her. [Time magazine via Stossel]
New mom Karen Piper, groggy with medications, told her doctor she wished the baby had been a girl. And so came to be launched the investigation of whether she was an abuse risk who should not be allowed to take the baby home. (Marc Fisher, Washington Post, Apr. 23).
In the U.K., childhood obesity has now developed into a grounds for social service agencies to take kids away from their parents. (Sarah-Kate Templeton, “‘Fat police’ put children on abuse list”, Times Online, Jan. 28).