Posts Tagged ‘Iowa’

November 1 roundup

Election edition:

Child abuse investigations: costs, benefits, and ruined lives

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.

August 16 roundup

  • Former producer at “Oprah” show — yearning for the simpler life? — takes job at rough blue-collar outfit. One $500K harassment settlement later… [Des Moines Register]
  • “Insurer writing ‘loser pays’ policies to defendants” [LNL]
  • “$1.4 Million Award Reversed due to Attorney’s ‘Inflammatory’ Comments” [DBR]
  • New book examines shaky evidentiary basis of international criminal law convictions [Nancy Combs]
  • Litigation slush funds, cont’d: new Department of Justice rules steer public settlement money to private advocacy groups [York, Examiner]
  • Second Circuit upholds Judge Weinstein’s steps to curb conspiracy to evade protective order in Zyprexa case [Drug and Device Law, Dan Popeo, NYLJ] More from the busy Dr. David Egilman: “Plaintiff’s Expert Files Appeal in ‘Popcorn Lung’ Lawsuit” [On Point News and more] Also: “Being an Expert Expert Doesn’t Make You an Expert” [Zacher, Abnormal Use]
  • “FTC Seeks to Clarify — and Justify — Its Blogger Endorsement Guidelines” [Citizen Media Law]
  • “Winnebago cruise control” and suchlike urban legends are purposely devised and spread by sinister interests, or so claim L.A. Times and Prof. Turley [five years ago on Overlawyered]

March 23 roundup

  • Probate court in Connecticut: bad enough when they hold you improperly in conservatorship, but worse when they bill you for the favor [Hartford Courant]
  • Does “Patent Troll” in World of Warcraft count as a character type or a monster type? [Broken Toys]
  • 102-year-old Italian woman wins decade-long legal dispute, but is told appeal could take 10 years more [Telegraph]
  • “This Cartoon Could Be Illegal, If Two Iowa Legislators Have Their Way” [Eugene Volokh]
  • David Giacalone, nonpareil commentator on attorneys’ fee ethics (and haiku), has decided to end his blog f/k/a. He signs off with a four-part series on lawyer billing and fairness to consumers/clients: parts one, two, three, four, plus a final “Understanding and Reducing Attorney Fees“. He’s keeping the site as archives, though, and let’s hope that as such it goes on shedding its light for as long as there are lawyers and vulnerable clients. More: Scott Greenfield.
  • Even they can’t manage to comply? Politically active union SEIU faces unfair labor practice charges from its own employees [WaPo]
  • Judge in Austin awards $3 million from couple’s estate to their divorce lawyers [Austin American-Statesman]
  • “Keywords With Highest Cost Per Click”, lawyers and financial services dominate [SpyFu]

More baseball liability woes

This time in Iowa:

A state Supreme Court ruling that allows a Bettendorf woman to sue over injuries her daughter suffered when she was struck with an errant bat at a minor-league baseball game threatens the spirit of America’s pastime, according to a judge who said his fellow justices have “taken a mighty swing … and missed by a mile.”

Cynthia Sweeney had signed a liability waiver, but sued anyway after her daughter, sitting in the bleachers as part of a school field trip, was struck by a bat that went flying. For more baseball-liability reports, follow our baseball tag.

The pseudoephredine trap

The cold and allergy remedy may be sold over the counter, but that doesn’t mean buyers like Gary Schinagel, a 47-year-old Iowa investment executive who has suffered from nasal congestion since childhood, can stay out of serious legal trouble should they purchase it in other than the government-approved manner. (John Skipper, “Man says stuffy nose did him in”, Mason City (Ia.) Globe Gazette, Sept. 22; Jacob Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”, Oct. 3; Colleen O’Shaughnessy, “Mason City Man Tries To Clear His Name”, KIMT, undated).

“Woman Wins $1.5M Award in STD Transmission Case”

The plaintiff in the Muscatine County, Iowa case said her former boyfriend had assured her he was free of sexually transmitted disease even though he should have had reason to know this wasn’t the case. She was later “diagnosed with both strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), one of which causes genital warts and the other cell abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer.” [OnPoint News] Marc Randazza at Legal Satyricon says the jury’s $1.5 million award “seems like a fair decision” (Aug. 15). Reader Scott M. isn’t so sure, writing in email, “One has to wonder how the other hundreds of millions of Americans manage to get by without compensation, since according to WebMD ‘HPV virus is common and infects at least 50% of all people who have sex at some time in their lives.'” (more).