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Coley v. Landrum

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 15, 2016

KATHLEEN LANDRUM Family Manager, MIKE ABELL Supervisor, HIWOT SEIFU DCS Worker, Defendants.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Brittany Coley brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment due process rights and her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The defendants move for summary judgment and Coley has responded. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion for summary judgment [dkt 113] is granted.

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         The Seventh Circuit has stated summary judgment is “the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events.” Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005)) (other citations omitted); see also Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, ” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898.

         II. Facts

         On January 16, 2014, Coley struck her eleven-year-old son D.C. with an oven or refrigerator door handle approximately six times. The next day at school, D.C. asked his teacher for an icepack. Noticing swelling and lumps on D.C.'s body, the school conducted an investigation and reported the incident to the Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”). DCS employee Mike Abell, a Family Case Manager, assigned Kathleen Landrum to investigate. Landrum went the school and performed an assessment that day. Landrum called Coley several times while she was at the school and was not able to reach her.

         Abell instructed Landrum to consult a pediatrician for advice on D.C.'s injuries. Landrum contacted Dr. Ralph Hicks of the Riley Child Protection Team regarding D.C.'s injuries. Dr. Hicks advised that D.C. should be brought to the emergency department for evaluation. Landrum then spoke to Coley on the telephone and told her that D.C. was being transported to Riley Hospital for Children for an x-ray of his arm. Coley stated she would meet Landrum at the hospital. After Coley arrived at the hospital, she admitted that she “whoops” her children with a belt and had whooped D.C. with the door handle. Landrum developed a safety plan with Coley which included not using excessive physical discipline with the children using any object that can result in bruises, lumps or injury. When discussing the safety plan, Coley indicated it was not against the law for D.C. to have a mark on him from a whooping. She stated she could whoop with a belt. Landrum informed Coley that she could not tell Coley to use a belt to discipline her children, and that DCS advised parents administering punishment to use an open hand on the bottom that does not leave marks or bruises. Coley refused to include that in the safety plan because she believed disciplining with only an open hand is not the law, just the preference of DCS.

         Based on the exam and x-rays, Dr. Hicks determined that D.C.'s wrist was not fractured, but there were areas of soft tissue swelling and tissue injury that could be seen on the x-rays. Dr. Hicks informed Landrum that the signs of physical abuse were obvious and characteristic of physical abuse and that he had concerns about the risk factors for D.C. and the other children in the home.

         Based on her assessment, which included Dr. Hicks's determinations, interviews of D.C., his younger brother Dm. C., and Coley, Landrum created a report titled “Assessment of Child Abuse or Neglect.” Based on Landrum's report, Abell and Landrum determined that removal of Coley's four children from the home was necessary. A court order could not be obtained at that time because the courts were closed for the holiday weekend. The children were transported by relatives to the local DCS office to facilitate a visit with Coley while the DCS relative placement staff contacted Coley's sisters to determine if relative placement was an option for placement of the children. After relative placement was determined not to be appropriate, Coley's children were placed in foster care (non-relative placement).

         Thereafter, Landrum prepared and signed an Intake Officer's Report of Preliminary Inquiry and Investigation for the initial detention hearing in the Child in Need of Services proceedings. On January 22, 2014, DCS filed a Verified Petition Alleging Children to be in Need of Services (“CHINS Petition”). The juvenile court granted DCS's request to file a CHINS Petition and found probable cause to believe that Coley's children were in need of services because they were seriously endangered. The juvenile court set the matter for initial hearing on January 22, 2014.

         On Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 1:30 PM, the juvenile court held a detention hearing. Coley was appointed a public defender at the initial hearing. The juvenile court ordered the continued removal of the children from the care of Coley, but authorized supervised parenting time. The juvenile court found that the detention hearing was not being held more than forty-eight hours, excluding weekends and holidays, after the children were taken into custody. The juvenile court held that removal was necessary and in the best interests of the children, that remaining in the home would be contrary to the health and welfare of the children and due to the emergency nature of the situation, no reasonable efforts could be made to prevent the removal of the children.

         On February 5, 2014, the juvenile court continued the Coley children's placement in foster care. By February 15, 2014, all four children were moved from foster care to relative care placement with Coley's sisters. On March 17, 2014, a fact-finding hearing was held in the CHINS proceedings. At the close of the hearing on March 17, 2014, the court took the matter under advisement and ordered that the children be returned to Coley's care on a temporary trial visit (“TTV”). The children were returned to Coley's care pursuant to the court order.

         On March 23, 2014, Coley was charged with a class D felony, battery on a child with injury, in Marion County. According to the probable cause affidavit, Detective Christopher Lawrence received Form 310 on January 23, 2014 which indicated D.C. had been struck by his mother and injured. Detective Lawrence reviewed the DCS report, D.C.'s letter and also relied on Landrum's interviews of D.C. and Coley. On January 30, 2014, the children were ...

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