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Purvis v. Indiana Department of Child Services

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

May 17, 2017




         Defendants Indiana Department of Child Services and Ruth Phelps (collectively “state defendants”) October 18, 2016, motion for summary judgment is before the Court. Plaintiff has responded in opposition, and the state defendants have replied.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying” designated evidence which “demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations. Instead, “[t]o successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant party must come forward with specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Trask-Morton v. Motel 6 Operating L.P., 534 F.3d 672, 677 (7th Cir. 2008). “The non-movant will successfully oppose summary judgment only when [he] presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.” Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trs., 278 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the Court accepts as true the non-movant's evidence, draws all legitimate inferences in favor of the non-movant, and does not weigh the evidence or the credibility of witnesses. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250. The non-movant may oppose the motion with any of the evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), but reliance on the pleadings alone is not sufficient to withstand summary judgment. Posey v. Skyline Corp., 702 F.2d 102, 105 (7th Cir. 1983).

         Substantive law determines which facts are material; that is, which facts might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not preclude summary judgment even when they are in dispute. Id. The issue of fact must be genuine. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e). To establish a genuine issue of fact the non-movant “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non-movant must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. A summary judgment determination is essentially an inquiry as to “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         II. Background

         The facts are taken from the complaint and evidentiary materials submitted in support of and opposition to summary judgment.

         In 1995, plaintiff Willard Purvis was a sixteen-year-old minor who had been designated a Child in Need of Services (“CHINS”) by defendant Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”), then known as the Division of Family and Children. Defendant DCS referred plaintiff to a treatment provider in Henry County, Indiana, Mid-Town Mental Health of Henry County. Mid-Town assigned defendant Darrell Hughes, its employee, to counsel plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that during the course of the counseling, Hughes began to make inappropriate comments and ask sexually specific questions. Hughes also would touch plaintiff on the upper thigh during these conversations. When plaintiff expressed concerns about this conduct to Hughes's supervisor, defendant Ruth Phelps, she did nothing about it, and told plaintiff to “pay it no mind.” Thereafter Hughes sexually abused plaintiff on a number of occasions and used a Polaroid camera to take plaintiff's photograph while nude or during sexual acts. Plaintiff reported these sexual assaults to Phelps, but was rebuffed when Phelps accused plaintiff of lying and said she did not want Hughes smeared. She suggested that plaintiff “should move.” The sexual abuse continued, but after plaintiff and his mother moved to Indianapolis, there was one more incident of sexual abuse before it stopped. Plaintiff alleges he discussed the sexual abuse a third and final time with Phelps after moving to Indianapolis, but, again, she did not believe him. Plaintiff was not a minor when he moved to and lived in Indianapolis.

         Nineteen years later, on May 30, 2014, plaintiff learned that Hughes had been arrested for a sex offense. He alleges this news caused him to remember the incidents of his own sexual abuse, which he had repressed and forgotten. Working with a mental health professional, plaintiff now remembers approximately twenty incidents of sexual assault.

         Plaintiff brought suit against defendants in state court on December 29, 2014, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 18 U.S.C. § 2255, and state law. The action was removed to this Court on April 9, 2015, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 & 1446. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. During screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court dismissed plaintiff's section 1983 claims, but allowed the section 2255 claim and pendant state law claims to proceed.

         Plaintiff's federal claim arises under Section 2255(a) of Title 18, United States Code, which is a part of the Child Abuse Victims' Rights Act of 1986. This particular section, enacted as part of the ...

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