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Radke v. County of Freeborn

March 23, 2004

MATTHEW RADKE, AS TRUSTEE FOR THE NEXT OF KIN OF MAKAIO LYNN RADKE, APPELLANT,
v.
COUNTY OF FREEBORN, ET AL., RESPONDENTS, PEGGY RADKE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Freeborn County District Court File No. C6-02-1692

Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The Child Abuse Reporting Act was enacted to "protect children whose health or welfare may be jeopardized through physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse."

2. Similar to the Vulnerable Adults Reporting Act, the Child Abuse Reporting Act does not contain a civil cause of action for alleged negligent investigation and intervention.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randall, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

Appellant, decedent's father and trustee for his next of kin, sued the county and two child protection workers for negligence after the 19-month-old child, whom they had visited following reports of abuse, was beaten to death by the boyfriend of the child's mother. On appeal from the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, appellant contends that the respondents assumed a duty to act with reasonable care, and that the wrongful-death negligence claim is based on this special duty. We cannot conclude the legislature either expressly or impliedly created a civil cause of action under the Child Abuse Reporting Act. We affirm.

FACTS

Matthew (appellant) and Peggy Radke (Radke) were the parents of Makaio Lynn Radke (Makaio), born September 17, 1999. In January 2001, the parties separated and began the process of dissolving the marriage. Shortly thereafter, Kristina Baker and Paul Gutierrez began living at the same residence with Radke and Makaio. Due to complaints of abuse and neglect made by appellant, Makaio became the subject of investigation by the Freeborn County Department of Human Services.

On February 28, 2001, Dr. Mohammed G. Soud of the Albert Lea Medical Center examined Makaio. Dr. Soud issued a report of possible abuse to Peggy Ressler, a social worker with the Freeborn County Human Services Department. The report stated that Makaio had dry lesions behind his left ear, a scabbed lesion behind his right ear, a 5 x 5 cm bruise behind his right cheek and a 1 x 2 bruise on his left cheek. Based on this report, Ressler visited Makaio at home on March 2, 2001. At this visit, Radke told Ressler that Makaio's injuries were sustained when Makaio fell down. Neither Ressler nor the County investigated the situation further at that time.

A few weeks later, on March 21, 2001, appellant discovered bruising on Makaio's testicles and brought Makaio to the Albert Lea Police Department (ALPD). After the police took photographs, appellant took Makaio to Urgent Care at the Albert Lea Medical Center. An examination revealed that Makaio had a superficial well-crusted abrasion to the back of his head, a small superficial abrasion on the right side of his head, a linear abrasion behind his left ear, a 1.5 cm black and blue area on his left jaw, a 1.5 x 4 cm black and blue area on his left thoracic back near his spine, a peeling area with a linear edge approximately 3 cm wide on his lateral superior right thigh, like a burn, his left lateral foot on the plantar surface was bullous, deroofed and crusted like a burn measuring 1.5 x 7 cm, and a dried open area on the outer aspect of his left foot at the ball of his foot onto his great toe, with scabbing, similar to a burn. Based on the examination, the doctor at Urgent Care suspected abuse, and the next day, the ALPD reported the suspected abuse to the Freeborn County Department of Human Services.

On March 26, 2001, Ressler again visited Makaio at Radke's home where she spoke with Radke and Gutierrez. Radke told Ressler that the mark on Makaio's foot was attributed to "hoof-and-mouth disease" (the record also reflects an alternative term, "hand-foot-mouth disease" as referred to by Radke). No further investigation was conducted at this time. Shortly thereafter, appellant received a letter from Ressler stating that the bruise on Makaio's foot had not been intentionally inflicted and child protective services were not necessary.

On April 11, 2001, appellant contacted the ALPD again to report his concern that Makaio was being abused. Two days later, Makaio's guardian ad litem (GAL) also contacted the ALPD after a visit to the Radke home. The GAL reported that Makaio had some old and some new bruises on his face. The GAL reported that the explanation given to her by ...


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