Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wells v. Endicott

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

May 31, 2013

MATTHEW C. WELLS, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Joseph M. Schoolfield, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SCOTT P. ENDICOTT and VALERIE SCHOOLFIELD, Defendants, and DENNIS R. ENDICOTT, KIMBERLY D. ENDICOTT, SOPHIA RAWLINGS, and ERWIN McEWEN, Director of Children and Family Services, Sued Individually, Defendants-Appellees.

Rule 23 Order filed April 17, 2013.

granted May 31, 2013.

Held[*]

In an action by the natural father of a three-year-old boy who died from a beating administered by his mother’s paramour, the trial court’s dismissal of the father’s complaint against the paramour’s parents, in whose home the boy and his mother lived, the director of the Department of Children and Family Services and a child welfare specialist was upheld, since the boy was in his mother’s custody, there were no allegations that the paramour’s parents voluntarily undertook any duties to the boy or that his mother entrusted the boy to the care of the paramour’s parents, plaintiff failed to plead facts sufficient to establish a voluntary custodian/protectee relationship between the boy and the paramour’s parents, the boy was not in the custody of the state, and the state did not create the danger he faced.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County, No. 10-L-928; the Hon. A.A. Matoesian, Judge, presiding.

Michael V. Oltmann and Michael R. Bilbrey, both of Law Offices of Michael R. Bilbrey, P.C., of Glen Carbon, for appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Michael A. Scodro, Solicitor General, and Mary E. Welsh, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for appellee Erwin McEwen.

Richard A. Cary, of Wham & Wham Lawyers, of Centralia, and Jeffery A. Cain, of Freeark, Harvey & Mendillo, of Belleville, for appellees Dennis R. Endicott and Kimberly D. Endicott.

Tara I. English and Stephen C. Mudge, both of Reed, Armstrong, Mudge & Morrissey, P.C., of Edwardsville, for appellee Sophia Rawlings.

Panel JUSTICE STEWART delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Spomer and Justice Goldenhersh concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

STEWART, JUSTICE.

¶ 1 In this appeal we review the dismissal of a complaint. In 2009, a three-year-old boy was severely beaten by his mother's paramour, and he eventually died from his injuries. The boy's natural father brought suit against the paramour's parents alleging that they negligently failed to protect the minor after voluntarily allowing him to live with his mother in their home. The plaintiff also brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2006) against the director of the Department of Children and Family Services and one of its child welfare specialists. The complaint alleged that the director and the child welfare specialist violated the boy's right to personal security and safety under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. The circuit court granted the parents' and the child welfare specialist's motions to dismiss under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)) and sua sponte dismissed the claims against the director. The plaintiff appealed. We affirm for the reasons that follow.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 This cause of action arises out of a civil complaint surrounding the death of a three-year-old boy, Joseph Schoolfield. This appeal relates only to defendants Dennis Endicott, Kimberly Endicott, Erwin McEwen, and Sophia Rawlings.

¶ 4 On September 7, 2010, the plaintiff, Matthew C. Wells, Joseph's father, filed a complaint as special administrator of Joseph's estate against the defendants seeking monetary damages under the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6 (West 2008)), under the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/0.01 to 2.2 (West 2008)), and for deprivation of substantive due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2006). He named as defendants Valerie Schoolfield, who is Joseph's mother; Scott Endicott, who is Valerie's paramour; Scott's parents Dennis and Kimberly Endicott (the Endicotts); Sophia Rawlings, who is a child welfare specialist with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (the Department); and Erwin McEwen, who was the Department's director at the relevant time.

¶ 5 The plaintiff alleged the following facts common to all counts. On September 5, 2008, Valerie dropped Joseph off at the Karen Levy Daycare, where caregivers discovered bruises all over his body. The daycare reported its suspicions that Joseph had been abused to the Department. On September 24, 2008, the daycare again reported suspicions that Joseph was being abused to the Department after he was dropped off with more bruises. On September 25, 2008, unknown agents from the Department took Joseph into custody after investigating his injuries and interviewing the daycare provider. On September 26, 2008, Joseph was interviewed at a child advocacy center, where it was revealed that he had been beaten by Scott with a belt.

¶ 6 On October 7, 2008, the court entered a temporary custody order. The court found that Valerie had received notice and was present at the hearing and that Joseph's biological father could not be found after a diligent search was made to locate him. The court found that there was probable cause for the filing of the petition based on unexplained bruising on Joseph. The court found that there was no immediate and urgent necessity to remove the minor from the home. Temporary custody of Joseph was awarded to Valerie. The Department was ordered to investigate the need for services and to provide the needed services. Scott was ordered to have no contact with Joseph. The court found that Scott agreed to vacate the premises where Valerie and Joseph lived and not return prior to further order.

¶ 7 On October 9, 2008, the Department assigned Joseph's case to Rawlings. At that time the Department instructed Rawlings that Joseph's case was high risk and required weekly visits to Joseph's family. Rawlings saw Joseph within one week of her assignment. On or about October 23, 2008, she attempted two more visits with Joseph. Valerie agreed to bring Joseph to the Department's office. On November 6, 2008, Rawlings visited Toddle Towne Learning Center, where the director reported that she had seen a bruise on Joseph's forehead. On November 11, 2008, Rawlings returned to Toddle Towne Learning Center to visit Joseph, and she observed bruises on his forehead, ribs, and left forearm. At that time she learned that Scott had beaten Joseph and that he was living with Joseph and Valerie despite the order that he have no contact with Joseph. On November 12, 2008, a staff member from Toddle Towne Learning Center called the Department to report that Joseph had another bruise.

¶ 8 On November 23, 2008, an unknown child protection investigator and an unknown intact family worker from the Department visited Joseph and Valerie at their residence. They were living in Madison County in a home the Endicotts owned but did not reside in. Joseph had bruising on his eye, cheek, and temple. The plaintiff alleged that the child protection investigator instituted a safety plan that placed the custody of Joseph with the Endicotts, but that allegation is not supported by the record.

¶ 9 On December 2, 2008, the court entered an order stating that the case remained "status quo." The court ordered Scott to have "no contact whatsoever" with Joseph.

¶ 10 On January 21, 2009, Joseph was severely beaten by Scott at the Endicotts' home in Clinton County. The Endicotts reside in this residence. On January 24, 2009, Joseph died from head and brain injuries he suffered in the beating.

¶ 11 Currently, Valerie and Scott are serving sentences at Illinois correctional centers. Because this appeal does not involve the counts against Scott or Valerie, we will not discuss them. The Endicotts, McEwen, and Rawlings filed motions to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. The plaintiff filed responses to their motions asking that the motions to dismiss be denied or, alternatively, that he be allowed to amend his complaint. On March 30, 2011, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint and granted him leave to file an amended complaint.

¶ 12 On April 27, 2011, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. The plaintiff brought four counts against Dennis Endicott and four counts against Kimberly Endicott. The counts against the Endicotts mirror each other and will be addressed together. Counts VII and XI of the amended complaint alleged causes of action against the Endicotts for negligent breach of a voluntary custodian/protectee relationship under the Survival Act. Counts IX and XIII alleged the same negligence under the Wrongful Death Act. These counts allege that the Endicotts negligently breached the voluntary custodian/protectee relationship duty they owed Joseph to protect him from reasonably foreseeable attacks by third parties, and that they were guilty of negligence by allowing Scott to batter Joseph. In support of these counts, the plaintiff alleged that the Endicotts voluntarily allowed Valerie and Joseph to stay at their homes in Madison and Clinton Counties and that because he was a child, Joseph was vulnerable and dependent on them for a place to live. He further alleged that because Joseph was vulnerable and depended on the Endicotts for a place to live, a voluntary custodian/protectee relationship existed between them and Joseph. The plaintiff alleged that as the voluntary custodian, they had a duty to protect Joseph from reasonably foreseeable attacks by third parties.

¶ 13 The plaintiff alleged that on October 7, 2008, the court entered an order that stated that Scott was to have no contact with Joseph and was to vacate the premises owned by the Endicotts in Madison County. The plaintiff asserted that based upon reasonable information and belief, the Endicotts were aware of the no-contact order entered by the court. The plaintiff alleged that on December 2, 2008, the court entered an order that Scott was to have no contact with Joseph and that based upon reasonable information and belief the Endicotts were present at the proceeding and were aware of the no-contact order. The plaintiff alleged that it was reasonably foreseeable that Scott would harm Joseph because he was the subject of the no-contact order that was entered for Joseph's protection.

¶ 14 The plaintiff alleged that based upon reasonable information and belief the Endicotts allowed Scott to enter their residence in Madison County while Joseph was at the home, in violation of the October 7, 2008, order, and batter Joseph. The plaintiff further alleged that based upon reasonable information and belief, the Endicotts knew or reasonably should have known that Scott was alone with Joseph in their Madison County home and that he had battered Joseph in the residence. The plaintiff alleged that based upon reasonable information and belief the Endicotts were present when Scott entered their residence in Clinton County on January 21, 2009, that they knew or reasonably should have known that Scott was alone with Joseph, and that they knew or reasonably should have known that Scott battered Joseph that day while they were in the home. The plaintiff alleged that the Endicotts breached the duty they owed Joseph to protect him from foreseeable attacks by third parties and were guilty of negligence for allowing Scott to enter their residences in Madison and Clinton Counties and batter Joseph. The plaintiff asserted that as a direct and proximate result of the Endicotts' breach of duty, Joseph suffered severe injuries, which caused him great pain and anguish, and ultimately resulted in his death.

¶ 15 Counts VIII, X, XII, and XIV of the amended complaint alleged causes of action against the Endicotts for the negligent breach of a voluntary undertaking under the Survival Act and under the Wrongful Death Act. In these counts, the plaintiff alleged that between September 5, 2008, and November 25, 2008, the Endicotts voluntarily allowed Valerie and Joseph to stay at their residence in Madison County and that between November 25, 2008, and January 21, 2009, they voluntarily allowed Valerie and Joseph to stay at their residence in Clinton County. He asserts that because Joseph was a child, he was helpless to adequately aid or protect himself. The plaintiff alleged that while under no duty to do so, the Endicotts took charge of Joseph by permitting him to stay at their residences in Madison and Clinton Counties and voluntarily undertook a duty to protect Joseph and keep him safe.

¶ 16 The plaintiff alleged that on October 7, 2008, the court entered a no-contact order prohibiting Scott from having contact with Joseph and ordering him to vacate the premises owned by his parents in Madison County. The plaintiff alleged that based upon reasonable information and belief, the Endicotts were aware of this no-contact order. The plaintiff alleged that on December 2, 2008, the court again entered a no-contact order prohibiting Scott from having any contact with Joseph. He asserted that based upon reasonable information and belief, the Endicotts were present at the proceeding and were aware that a no-contact order was entered. The plaintiff alleged that it was reasonably foreseeable that Scott would harm Joseph because there was a no-contact order entered against Scott for Joseph's protection.

¶ 17 The plaintiff asserted that based upon reasonable information and belief, on November 6, 11, 12, and 25, 2008, the Endicotts allowed Scott to enter their Madison County residence and batter Joseph. He further alleged that on those dates the Endicotts knew or reasonably should have known that Scott was alone with Joseph in their Madison County residence and knew or reasonably should have known that he had battered Joseph. The plaintiff alleged that based upon reasonable information and belief, on January 21, 2009, the Endicotts allowed Scott to enter their Clinton County residence while Joseph was at the house and batter Joseph. He alleged that based upon reasonable information and belief, the Endicotts were present when Scott entered the home, they knew or reasonably should have known he was alone with Joseph, they knew or reasonably should have known he battered Joseph, and they were present at the home when Joseph was battered. The plaintiff contends that by allowing Scott to batter Joseph, the Endicotts failed to exercise reasonable care to secure the safety of Joseph and were negligent in performing the duty they undertook to protect Joseph and keep him safe. He alleged that as a direct and proximate result of their negligent performance of the duty they voluntarily undertook to protect Joseph and keep him safe, he suffered injuries which caused him great pain and suffering and ultimately caused his death.

¶ 18 The plaintiff brought a claim against McEwen, individually, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2006), for the deprivation of substantial due process rights under a special relationship theory. He alleged that McEwen was the director of the Department at all relevant times and was being sued in his individual capacity. The plaintiff alleged that on or about September 25, 2008, a child investigator from the Department acting at the direction of McEwen and under color of state law took Joseph into the Department's custody after observing injuries Joseph had sustained and interviewing Joseph's daycare provider at Karen Levy Daycare. Once Joseph was taken into the custody of the agency, McEwen entered into a special relationship with Joseph. This relationship gave rise to a duty on the part of McEwen to protect Joseph. On or about October 7, 2008, attorneys for the agency, acting at McEwen's direction, agreed to allow Joseph to be returned to the custody of Valerie. Joseph was ultimately killed by Scott while in Valerie's custody. The plaintiff alleged that McEwen violated Joseph's due process right under the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution to personal security and safety when he, acting under color of state law, did not exercise bona fide professional judgment by allowing Joseph to be placed back in Valerie's custody, did not exercise bona fide professional judgment by continuing to allow Joseph to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.