Mother files second amended complaint in $11 million lawsuit in CPS case
The suit, filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California, alleges the defendants violated the plaintiff’s’ Constitutional rights under the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments. The suit also charges the defendants with intentional infliction of emotional distress, liability under state law for negligence for failure to fulfill a mandatory duty and negligence.
The plaintiffs in the case, Amy McConnell and her four minor children, seek at least $11 million in damages from the defendants — more than $10 million for “wrongful deprivation of their rights” and more than $1 million for “general damages.”
In addition, the plaintiff seeks “compensatory damages, liquidate, exemplary, punitive damages and such monetary relief as may be deemed appropriate …” including costs and attorney fees.
The defendants in the case are Lassen County, James Chapman, Bob Pyle, Brian Dahle, Lloyd Keefer, Jack Hanson, the Board of Supervisors of Lassen County, Terry Chapman and Loel Griffith, former Lassen County social workers, Barbara Coy, a foster parent, and Environmental Services, an agency that arranges placements for CPS.
According to Treva Hearne, the plaintiffs’ attorney, the second amended complaint was filed in September 2005 in response to a defense motion.
The plaintiff’s attorney said the case is currently “in active discovery” and she’s “taking depositions all over the place.” She said the court has scheduled a December 2007 trial.
Kathleen Williams, who represents Lassen County in the case and Jim Hardee, administrator for Environmental Alternatives did not return the Times’ calls requesting comment for this story.
The Times was unable to contact Chapman and Griffith to obtain their comments for this story.
The plaintiff’s version of events
According to the complaint, on May 5, 2003, Amy McConnell went to the gas company to pay a bill. While she was gone, her husband, James McConnell, the adult present with three of the family’s children, left the home to use a neighbor’s phone. The oldest minor child was attending school.
During the absence of both parents, the maternal grandfather found the three unattended children and took them to CPS without authorization by the parents.
Both parents returned home, found the children were missing and began searching for them in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, CPS picked up the couple’s fourth child at the school.
As they searched, the parents learned CPS had the children from a neighbor’s police scanner. They went to CPS and asked for the return of their children. The father accepted responsibility for the children being alone and said he would leave the home if the children would be returned to the plaintiff.
According to the complaint, “On May 7, 2003, a juvenile dependency petition was filed by Lassen County in Lassen Superior Court with a hearing scheduled for May 8, 2003 at 1:30 p.m. The plaintiff was not notified of the hearing, and upon information and belief, no hearing took place.
“There was no claim against the plaintiff for leaving the children … (and) the oldest minor child was never left alone.”
The complaint alleges the county failed to properly investigate the placement of the children and to investigate whether the children should be returned to their mother.
Environmental Services, an agency contracted by Lassen County to provide placements, put the children in the foster home of Hank and Barbara Coy, despite an alleged prior complaint of child abuse in the Coy home. The complaint alleges the CPS social workers “knew or had reason to know that the foster home of Hank and Barbara Coy and the succession of foster homes chosen for the plaintiff’s minor children were inadequate and not safe.”
According to the complaint, between May and October 2003, two of the McConnell children were repeatedly sexually molested and physically abused and the other minor children were physically abused and possibly sexually molested in the foster home where they had been placed by the defendants. The foster father, Hank Coy, admitted these acts of physical and sexual abuse.
Marion “Hank” Boyd Coy, 69, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Dec. 13, 2004 on felony molestation charges. According to a preliminary hearing transcript, Coy admitted sexually penetrating a 5-year-old girl in 10 separate incidents during the four months the girl lived in his foster home in Doyle.
The complaint alleges, “Barbara Coy negligently failed to protect the minor children from harm perpetrated by the foster father, Hank Coy, who repeatedly sexually molested and physically abused the children while she was present and had a duty to protect the minor children placed in her care.”
According to the complaint, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors knew of the problems with CPS and did not correct those problems.
“The Board of Supervisors of Lassen County knew that the CPS of Lassen County was inadequately staffed, had inadequately trained staff and the staff had repeatedly violated the law and regulations governing the custody and care of and management of foster homes for minor children. The Grand Jury of Lassen County had issued yearly reports on the problems with CPS and the violations of law and policy. The Board of Supervisors of Lassen County acted with deliberate indifference and failed and refused to remedy the violations, inadequate training and inadequate staff. Instead, the Board of Supervisors approved and allowed a policy of terminating any social worker who complained and, moreover, allowed the deputy director of CPS to terminate anyone with a degree and experience that was greater than hers …
“The defendants Board of Supervisors of Lassen County knew of the lack of training and the violations of state law by the Lassen County CPS because of annual reports by the Grand Jury of Lassen County for three years just prior to the taking of the minor children of Amy McConnell.
“The defendants Board of Supervisors did not respond to the allegations of the Grand Jury and, instead, stated that the Grand Jury, an independent group of citizens convened for the purpose of investigating the circumstances of county agencies, was prejudiced and incorrect.
“The defendants Board of Supervisors had been advised by employees of the CPS that CPS was violating the law and the Board of Supervisors allowed the manager of CPS to terminate the employment of these employees. The Board of Supervisors allowed the termination of these whistle blower employees and ignored the comments and evidence given to the Board of Supervisors by the employees and paid the resultant damages for firing whistle blower employees rather than follow their advice and the evidence they submitted.”
On Jan. 18, 2005, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors rejected the claim of Amy McConnell in its entirety and, likewise, on Feb. 17, 2005, the supervisors rejected the claims of the minor children in their entirety.
A claim also was filed with the Foster and Small Homes Insurance Fund on behalf of the minor children, but that claim was refused because the Coy home was a certified home not a licensed home.
Cougars face tough teams to prepare for a victorious season
TJ McCauley attempts to keep the ball away from a Fresno City College player during the championship basketball game of the El Camino Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 24. The Lassen Community College Cougars have been competing in pre-season tournaments and have earned several wins. Photo by Scott Nordstrom Dec....Read More...
Susanville native to play in college bowl with Boise State
Darren Lee, a Lassen High School graduate and former Lassen High football player, now plays football for Boise State and will be going with the team to a college bowl game in late December. Photo by Boise State Media Relations Dec. 6 — A Susanville native is making strides in his football career...Read More...
Lady Grizzlies celebrate a championship season
Miranda Langenhorst, back left, Mikailia Bustamante, Melica Woodhead, Dana Lovelace, Makenna Busse, Klari Scheff, bottom left, Hailey Hannah, Stevie Woodbury, Myeisha Shepard, Emilee Downing, Gabi Geoia and Jayde Hartzell pose together with the awards they were presented with at the Lassen High School...Read More...