Carroll v. Ragaglia

Decision Date10 November 2003
Docket NumberNo. CIV. 3:02CV790PCD.,CIV. 3:02CV790PCD.
Citation292 F.Supp.2d 324
PartiesThomas J. CARROLL, Plaintiff, v. Kristine D. RAGAGLIA, et. al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

James A. Wade, Robinson & Cole, Hartford, CT, for Plaintiff.

John Essex Tucker, Attorney General's Office, Hartford, CT, for Defendants.


DORSEY, District Judge.

Defendants Kristine D. Ragaglia, Judith Fritz, and Laura Curran move for summary judgment on all counts.1 For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion is granted.

I. Background2

In July, 1998, the child John Doe3, a special needs child with behavior problems, was removed from his birth mother's care and was placed by DCF as a foster child in with Plaintiff, who was his primary caregiver.

From August, 1997 through March, 2003, Ragaglia was Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Plaintiff attended informational meetings in 1999 at which Ragaglia was a speaker, and telephoned Ragaglia to complain about the DCF New Britain office and its poor handling of the child.4

In 2000, Curran was employed as an investigative social worker, assigned to investigate reports of suspected child abuse or neglect reported to the DCF hotline. Curran's first contact with Plaintiff was on October 10, 2000. Fritz, a treatment social worker, was assigned to the child's case in May, 2000. Foster and Adoption Services Unit (FASU), a different DCF unit than Fritz's unit, was responsible for foster parent training, licensing, and for primary support of assigned foster homes. Curran and Fritz were trained by DCF, as were Plaintiff and his wife. Plaintiff alleges that such training was inadequate, and did not include training on Reaction Attachment Disorder ("RAD"). Plaintiff self-studied RAD.

After assignment to the child's case, Fritz learned of the child's diagnosis of RAD. Plaintiff contends Fritz did not understand RAD and was not interested in learning about it. Defendants contend that she consulted various resources to familiarize herself with the condition. Fritz attempted to alleviate stress within the foster home, including respite care at various times. As of August, 2000, Plaintiff had no complaint against Fritz.

Plaintiff's wife complained to the Office of the Child Advocate ("OCA"), an independent state agency which investigates complaints concerning actions of state agencies providing services to children, regarding DCF's handling of the child's case. She left messages with an unidentified OCA secretary, but no one spoke with her directly. An Assistant Child Advocate wrote to Plaintiff's wife on September 19, 2000, stating that DCF's narrative case reports had been reviewed and that DCF's actions were found appropriate to the child's needs.

On October 10, 2000, DCF received a report on its hotline of suspected child abuse concerning the child. The school social worker at his elementary school reported that she and the school nurse observed marks on the child's neck and arm. Although initially the child told her that he did not recall how he got the marks, he later stated that he had a conflict with his foster father (Plaintiff) about cleaning his room the previous evening. The child stated that Plaintiff grabbed his neck and arm and possibly placed his hands on the child's face. The social worker noted that the child had a mark on his neck approximately three inches by one inch, which had broken blood vessels, was reddish-brown in color, and resembled a rope burn. The report indicated that there were marks under the child's eyes, and that he was a special education student diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and was on medication.

On October 10, 2000, Curran was assigned to investigate the report of abuse. The school social worker told Curran that she brought the child to the school nurse after observing red marks on his neck. Curran learned that the school nurse had called Plaintiff earlier that day and Plaintiff told her that he had not noticed any marks on the child but that it had been a "rough weekend." The foster parents reported to the school that the child had difficult behavior problems at home. Curran called Fritz, the treatment social worker, seeking additional background information, and was told that the child is difficult to manage and has attachment disorder and a tendency to fabricate. Fritz also told Curran of a report by Plaintiff that the child falsely stated that Plaintiff had hit him in a grocery store. Fritz advised Curran that Plaintiff and his wife were dissatisfied with DCF's handling of the case.

On October 10, 2000, Curran visited the child's elementary school and interviewed the child alone in the school social worker's office. She noticed bruises and marks on the child. The child told Curran that Plaintiff had applied physical force to him during an argument the previous evening over cleaning the child's room.

This same day Curran visited Plaintiff's home and informed Plaintiff of the concern regarding the physical marks on the child's face and neck. Plaintiff became frustrated about the situation. Defendants allege that Plaintiff attempted to call the child's therapist, Marguerite Ruppenicker. Plaintiff alleges that Ruppenicker called Plaintiff during Curran's visit. Plaintiff alleges that Curran refused to speak with Ruppenicker, and that Curran requested Plaintiff to stay off the phone so Curran and Plaintiff could discuss the situation. Plaintiff told Curran that the child had a temper tantrum the previous evening and was flailing around, and that the next morning he had to physically put the child in the shower because the child refused to clean himself. Plaintiff advised that the child had a cut on his foot and that Plaintiff put alcohol on the wound. Plaintiff kept repeating that he knew that this was going to happen, because of the child's tendency to lie and accuse people of hurting him when he does not get his way.5

Later this day Fritz arrived at Plaintiff's home and was present when the child returned from school. According to Plainthe child arrived home and ran to Curran to show her more marks, which Curran identified as old marks. According to Defendants, Plaintiff immediately told the child to come to him so he could observe the child's neck. When Plaintiff asked the child what happened, the child indicated that Plaintiff had pulled on his neck the previous night. Defendants allege that Plaintiff and the child accused each other of lying and that Plaintiff directed the child to go to his room.

This same day, the police were contacted about the incident,6 and State Trooper Derek Allen, who had previously investigated a complaint that Plaintiff's wife struck the child with a wooden spoon in February of 2000, arrived at Plaintiff's home and interviewed the child in Curran's presence. Defendants allege that the child told Allen "substantially the same account" of the incident, and Plaintiff alleges that the child's story was different from the one told to Curran or the school nurse. Allen also interviewed Plaintiff alone in the squad car.

Later in the day Fritz took the child to an emergency room for examination. The emergency room physician called the DCF hotline to report suspected abuse, and the emergency room report reflected that the child had a bump on his head, bruising, petechiae7 on his neck and under his eyes (indicative of choking), and finger marks on his right cheek and left forearm. Two physicians examined the child and diagnosed physical abuse. Plaintiff alleges that the emergency room physicians were not told about the child's diagnosis of RAD or his history of making false allegations of child abuse.

On October 12, 2000, Ruppenicker told Curran that she suspected the child had RAD, and that he accuses his foster parents of abuse when he does not get what he wants. Ruppenicker did not have any concerns about abuse or inappropriate discipline in Plaintiff's home, but she was aware that Plaintiff's wife once hit the child with a wooden spoon. Ruppenicker opined that DCF did not sufficiently train Plaintiff and his wife. Plaintiff alleges that Ruppenicker also told Curran that the child could injure himself during tantrums.

This same day Curran was informed by the child's pediatric group that a chart dated January 28, 1999 stated that the foster parents were concerned about the child's lying and aggressiveness. The chart did not indicate any neglect or abuse. Curran also called the school nurse.

Pursuant to DCF policy, at the conclusion of an investigation the investigator is required to consult with her supervisor to determine whether the report of abuse or neglect is substantiated or unsubstantiated. Defendants allege that physical abuse was found to be substantiated on or about October 16, 2000. Plaintiff alleges that the decision to substantiate was made the same day abuse was reported.

During the course of these events, Plaintiff repeatedly noted the child's history of lying. While Curran was aware that the child had exaggerated or lied, DCF records demonstrate that the child accurately reported to DCF at least two specific incidents. One incident involved Plaintiff's wife striking the child with a wooden spoon because he was throwing snowballs at horses.8 Plaintiff's wife was criminally charged by state police as a result. The other incident involved Plaintiff's wife putting soap in the child's mouth, to which she admitted.

As an investigative social worker, Curran was not involved in the provision of services or support to Plaintiff's foster home or treatment services to the child. Neither Curran nor Fritz were involved in scheduling the administrative hearing.

On or about October 10, 2000, Plaintiff retained attorney James A. Wade to represent him. At the end of October, 2000, Wade met with the prosecutor on Pl...

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2 cases
  • Ward v. Murphy
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • August 16, 2004
    ...defendants in their official capacity, which seek money damages, are barred by the eleventh amendment. See Carroll v. Ragaglia, 292 F.Supp.2d 324, 342 (D.Conn.2003) (dismissing claims against individual defendants in their official capacity pursuant to Eleventh Amendment). Likewise, the cou......
  • Durgin v. Town Of Madison
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • February 18, 2011 so, there can be no claim for violation of his or her procedural due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Carroll v. Ragaglia, 292 F. Supp. 2d 324, 341-42 (D. Conn. 2003). In support of their exhaustion argument, the Defendants rely upon Hedges v. Town of Madison, No. 3:09CV1468 (PCD)......

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