Thursday, November 7, 2013

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services case brief

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services case brief summary
489 U.S. 189 (1989)

Petitioner, a minor child, brought an action under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 against respondents, a county's department of social services and its various employees, for failing to intervene to protect the child against the risk of violence at his father's hands. The child challenged a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that affirmed a trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of respondents.

The child's father beat him to the point where he was deemed to be profoundly retarded. The child, by his guardian ad litem, alleged that respondents knew or should have known about the risk posed by his father. The district court granted respondents' motion for summary judgment, and the appellate court affirmed. The appellate court found that the child had not made out an actionable § 1983 claim.

On appeal, the Supreme Court found that the actions of the father were reprehensible. However, the Court determined that the Fourteenth Amendment did not require a state or local governmental agency to protect its citizens from private violence or other mishaps not attributable to the conducts of its employees. Therefore, the Court affirmed the lower courts' decisions.


The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the appellate court, which affirmed the summary judgment entered in favor of respondents.

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