LOVAN C. v. DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN, No. 24580.

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtLAVERY, C.J.
Citation86 Conn.App. 290,860 A.2d 1283
PartiesLOVAN C. v. DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.
Decision Date07 December 2004
Docket NumberNo. 24580.

860 A.2d 1283
86 Conn.App.
290

LOVAN C.1
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

No. 24580.

Appellate Court of Connecticut.

Argued September 8, 2004.

Decided December 7, 2004.


860 A.2d 1285
George C. Springer, Jr., Hartford, for the appellant (plaintiff)

Carrie B. Taylor, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were Richard Blumenthal, attorney general, and Susan T. Pearlman, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (defendant).

LAVERY, C.J., and DIPENTIMA and PETERS, Js.

LAVERY, C.J.

The plaintiff, Lovan C., appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing her administrative appeal from the decision of the administrative hearings unit of the defendant, the department of children and families (department), affirming the department's substantiation of an allegation of physical abuse. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly (1) found that she had failed to challenge the definition of "abuse," (2) concluded that her conduct constituted physical abuse and (3) found that she had abandoned her constitutional claims.

We disagree with the legal conclusions drawn in this case. The hearing officer's failure to hold a hearing regarding the reasonableness of the corporal punishment at issue undermines the integrity of the judgment. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the trial court dismissing the plaintiff's administrative appeal, and remand the case with direction that judgment be rendered sustaining the plaintiff's appeal and ordering the defendant to reverse the substantiation of the allegation of physical abuse for lack of substantial evidence.

The following undisputed facts are relevant to our review. On September 11, 1999, the plaintiff, responding to a commotion coming from her five year old daughter's room, found her daughter swinging and jumping on her canopy bed. Although the plaintiff rarely used physical discipline, she picked up a child's belt and spanked her daughter three times with a portion of the strap, which left a bruise approximately one inch in diameter on her thigh.2 The incident was investigated by a police officer, who had received a complaint from the child's father. The officer determined that the plaintiff's actions "did not rise to the level of child abuse...."

On September 13, 1999, the department received a referral from the family relations unit of the Superior Court. After investigating the circumstances surrounding

860 A.2d 1286
the spanking, the department substantiated the allegation that the plaintiff had abused her child physically because the child received an injury other than by accidental means. The plaintiff subsequently was placed on the child abuse and neglect registry.3 She appealed from that decision to the administrative hearings unit of the department, which affirmed the department's substantiation of physical abuse. She then appealed to the Superior Court, which dismissed her appeal. This appeal followed

We begin by articulating the standard of review for an appeal from the decision of an administrative agency. "Judicial review of [an administrative agency's] action is governed by the [Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA), General Statutes § 4-166 et seq.] ... and the scope of that review is very restricted.... With regard to questions of fact, it is neither the function of the trial court nor of this court to retry the case or to substitute its judgment for that of the administrative agency.... Judicial review of the conclusions of law reached administratively is also limited. The court's ultimate duty is only to decide whether, in light of the evidence, the [agency] has acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, illegally, or in abuse of its discretion.... Although the interpretation of statutes is ultimately a question of law ... it is the well established practice of this court to accord great deference to the construction given [a] statute by the agency charged with its enforcement.... Conclusions of law reached by the administrative agency must stand if the court determines that they resulted from a correct application of the law to the facts found and could reasonably and logically follow from such facts." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Unified School District No. 1 v. Dept. of Education, 64 Conn.App. 273, 282-83, 780 A.2d 154, cert. denied, 258 Conn. 910, 782 A.2d 1253 (2001).

General Statutes § 4-183(j), which describes the scope of judicial review of administrative decisions, provides in relevant part: "The court shall affirm the decision of the agency unless the court finds that substantial rights of the person appealing have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are: (1) In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; (2) in excess of the statutory authority of the agency; (3) made upon unlawful procedure; (4) affected by other error of law; (5) clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record; or (6) arbitrary or capricious or

860 A.2d 1287
characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion. If the court finds such prejudice, it shall sustain the appeal and, if appropriate, may render a judgment under subsection (k)4 of this section or remand the case for further proceedings." (Emphasis added.)

General Statutes § 46b-120 defines an "abused" child as, inter alia, one who "has been inflicted with physical injury or injuries other than by accidental means...." The definitions of an "abused" child found in both § 17a-101(e)-2(c) of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies and § 22-12-2 of the department's policy manual mirror the statutory definition. The phrase "physical injury" is not defined in the General Statutes or the regulations;5 however, § 34-2-7 of the department's policy manual provides examples of "physical injury," including but not limited to "death, head injuries, bruises, scratches, lacerations, internal injuries, burns, scalds ... injuries to bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments [and] misuse of medical treatments or therapies."

Applying those definitions, the department substantiated the abuse allegation on the ground that the plaintiff's discipline of her daughter resulted in a one inch bruise on the child's leg. In upholding the substantiation of the allegation of abuse, the hearing officer believed that although her decision would set a dangerous precedent for future cases, she nevertheless was bound by the technical definition of "abuse" as an injury to a child by nonaccidental means. In her decision, the hearing officer stated: "While [the plaintiff's] actions fit within the definition of physical abuse, this case raises a concerning issue. It was clear from the testimony presented at the hearing and in the Protocol that this was a one time occurrence of physical discipline. Both [the daughter] and her older brother reported to the investigator that their mother does not strike them for discipline. They both reported that [the plaintiff] generally talks to them to discipline. This information was confirmed by [the plaintiff and her husband] and other collaterals contacted during the investigation. In fact, after contacting other professionals involved with the family, there were no concerns regarding [the plaintiff's] care of her children. Even [the plaintiff's husband], who admitted to making the initial disclosure out of spite, reported that [the plaintiff] does not strike the children and [that] he has no concerns regarding her disciplining techniques. Unfortunately, the maintenance of [the plaintiff's] name on the department's registry for this one incident may negatively impact her career opportunities6 for years to come although the reports from her children and the professionals who are involved with the family indicate [the plaintiff] presents no threat to children."

On appeal from the hearing officer's determination, the court dismissed the plaintiff's appeal. It found that the hearing officer had made a correct determination and that even though the plaintiff did not intend to harm her child, "[t]he statutes...

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20 practice notes
  • State v. Nathan J., No. 17903.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 1, 2009
    ...and does not take into account the factors that inform the parental justification defense. See Lovan C. v. Dept. of Children & Families, 86 Conn.App. 290, 299, 860 A.2d 1283 (2004) (concluding that, although § 46b-120 [4][A] only requires nonaccidental injury, parental justification defense......
  • Gosselin v. Gosselin, No. 27453.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 9, 2008
    ...of a consideration not addressed by the parties previously.4 See, e.g., Lovan C. v. Dept. of 110 Conn.App. 154 Children & Families, 86 Conn.App. 290, 860 A.2d 1283 (2004); Cumberland Farms, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 74 Conn. App. 622, 814 A.2d 396, cert. denied, 263 Conn. 901, 819 A.......
  • State v. Matavale, No. 27476.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • August 14, 2007
    ...a parent attempts to save a child from harm but, in doing so, bruises or injures the child. Lovan C. v. Dep't of Children & Families, 86 Conn.App. 290, 860 A.2d 1283, 1289 (2004) 166 P.3d 340 (emphasis added).13 Indeed, this court and the ICA have reversed convictions in cases where the par......
  • Dubinsky v. Black, AC 40203
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 25, 2018
    ...the present case.IIIAlso misplaced is the plaintiff's reliance on this court's decision in Lovan C. v. Dept. of Children & Families , 86 Conn. App. 290, 860 A.2d 1283 (2004). Unlike the present case, which involves a probable cause determination made soon after the incident in question, Lov......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • State v. Nathan J., No. 17903.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 1, 2009
    ...and does not take into account the factors that inform the parental justification defense. See Lovan C. v. Dept. of Children & Families, 86 Conn.App. 290, 299, 860 A.2d 1283 (2004) (concluding that, although § 46b-120 [4][A] only requires nonaccidental injury, parental justification defense......
  • Gosselin v. Gosselin, No. 27453.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 9, 2008
    ...of a consideration not addressed by the parties previously.4 See, e.g., Lovan C. v. Dept. of 110 Conn.App. 154 Children & Families, 86 Conn.App. 290, 860 A.2d 1283 (2004); Cumberland Farms, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 74 Conn. App. 622, 814 A.2d 396, cert. denied, 263 Conn. 901, 819 A.......
  • State v. Matavale, No. 27476.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • August 14, 2007
    ...a parent attempts to save a child from harm but, in doing so, bruises or injures the child. Lovan C. v. Dep't of Children & Families, 86 Conn.App. 290, 860 A.2d 1283, 1289 (2004) 166 P.3d 340 (emphasis added).13 Indeed, this court and the ICA have reversed convictions in cases where the par......
  • Dubinsky v. Black, AC 40203
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 25, 2018
    ...the present case.IIIAlso misplaced is the plaintiff's reliance on this court's decision in Lovan C. v. Dept. of Children & Families , 86 Conn. App. 290, 860 A.2d 1283 (2004). Unlike the present case, which involves a probable cause determination made soon after the incident in question, Lov......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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