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American Bar Association

Children's Rights Litigation

September 11, 2012

In re Ethan C. (Cal. 2012)


In In re Ethan C. [PDF] (Cal. 2012), a father transported his 18-month-old daughter in a car without putting her in a car seat. She was in her aunt’s lap on the way to the hospital to treat an injury to her arm. Another vehicle collided with their car, and the girl died. Two siblings were adjudicated dependent; the dependency court made findings under WIC § 300(f), saying, “The child’s parent or guardian caused the death of another child through abuse or neglect.”

The court holds that only ordinary negligence, not criminal, is required to support dependency jurisdiction under WIC § 300(f); the word “caused” as used in the statute has its ordinary meaning and the existence of an intervening, superseding cause is irrelevant; and the statute does not require proof of a current or future risk of harm to the surviving siblings. The court notes that a finding under WIC § 300(f) does not necessitate the removal of the child or other interventions; it merely establishes court jurisdiction.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, negligence, dependency court

Erik Pitchal, Boston, Massachusetts

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