Scott v. County of Los Angeles, No. B067514

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtCROSKEY; KLEIN, P.J., and KITCHING
Citation27 Cal.App.4th 125,32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643
PartiesJimmee SCOTT, a Minor, etc., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, et al., Defendants and Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. B067514
Decision Date29 July 1994

Page 643

32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643
27 Cal.App.4th 125
Jimmee SCOTT, a Minor, etc., Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, et al., Defendants and Appellants.
No. B067514.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 3, California.
July 29, 1994.

Review Denied Oct. 20, 1994.

Page 645

[27 Cal.App.4th 133] Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Robert E. Hinerfeld and Ronald B. Turovsky, Los Angeles, for defendants and appellants.

Voorhies & Kramer, Gutierrez & Gutierrez and Jean Ballantine, Los Angeles, for plaintiff and respondent.

CROSKEY, Associate Justice.

The County of Los Angeles ("the County") and Zsa Zsa Maxwell, a Children's Services Worker ("CSW") in the County's Department of Children's Services ("DCS"), appeal from the judgment of the Superior Court after a jury verdict. The jury awarded the seven-year-old plaintiff, Jimmee Scott, $1,191,692 in economic damages and $1,040,000 in general non-economic damages, for a total of $2,231,692, for serious injuries she suffered as a result of the defendants' negligence in supervising her foster care. Jimmee had been placed in the home of her grandmother, Dorothy Bullock, under DCS supervision. 1

The central issues raised by the appeal concern (1) the impact of requirements imposed upon local governments by regulations in the state Department of Social Services ("DSS") Manual of Policies and Procedures ("DSS Manual"), (2) the extent to which shortfalls in local governments' budgets may or may not excuse performance of mandatory

Page 646

duties imposed by such regulations, and (3) the manner of apportioning fault where one or more [27 Cal.App.4th 134] defendants are sued for negligence, and the defendants' negligence consisted of failing to protect the plaintiff from the intentional acts of another defendant or a third party.

The DSS regulations at issue establish requirements for the supervision by county social service agencies of children placed in foster care under the agencies' supervision. In particular, when the events giving rise to this case took place, regulation 30-342 required monthly visits to be made to the home where each child is placed, subject to specific exceptions which are set forth in the regulation. 2

Regulation 30-342, its successor regulation 31-320, and other regulations applicable to this case are regulations duly promulgated by the DSS pursuant to section 16501 of the Welfare & Institutions Code and impose mandatory duties upon local agencies. 3 We therefore hold that public entities are liable under section 815.6 of the Government Code for injuries to children in foster [27 Cal.App.4th 135] care which occur as a result of any violation of those duties; 4 such public entities and their employees are not immune under Government Code sections 815.2 and 820.2

Page 647

for violations of those duties. 5 We also hold that functions performed by a county welfare agency pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code section 16500 and following are separate and distinct from those quasi-prosecutorial functions in connection with proceedings under Welfare & Institutions Code section 300, which are commonly delegated to county welfare departments pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code section 272. 6 Thus, a county and its employees are not immune under Government Code sections 815.2 and 821.6 for negligence in the performance of such functions. 7 Nor do shortfalls in government budgets excuse the performance of mandatory duties imposed by the regulations.

[27 Cal.App.4th 136] On the issue of apportionment of damages between one or more negligent defendants and a nonparty intentional tortfeasor, we hold that: (1) the jury's apportionment of damages was not supported by substantial evidence, and (2) the jury should have been instructed, pursuant to Weidenfeller v. Star & Garter (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 1, 2 Cal.Rptr.2d 14, that a defendant may be found liable for noneconomic damages only in proportion to the total fault of all persons whose acts were a legal cause of the plaintiff's injuries, whether or not all such persons have appeared in the action, and whether their acts were intentional or negligent.

The jury found that Maxwell negligently failed to comply with regulation 30-342, and as a proximate result of Maxwell's negligence, for which the County is liable, Jimmee remained in an abusive and dangerous home where she ultimately was severely injured. The jury apportioned 1 percent of the fault to Bullock, and 99 percent to Maxwell and the County. Although we reject the defendants' claims of immunity, we do find the jury was not properly instructed on the apportionment of fault and that the court misapplied the collateral source rule. We therefore reverse the judgment and remand the matter for a redetermination of those issues.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Jimmee Scott was just under four years of age on June 28, 1988, the day on which her grandmother, Dorothy Bullock, immersed her legs in scalding water, inflicting deep burns that will leave Jimmee disabled and disfigured for life, and for which Bullock has been imprisoned for child abuse and corporal injury to a child.

Jimmee was in Bullock's care by order of the juvenile court and under the supervision of the DCS after she was abandoned by her mother, Latitia Bullock, approximately a year and a half before the date of her injuries.

On February 23, 1987, Jimmee's aunt, Debra Bullock, telephoned DCS, because Latitia had left Jimmee and Jimmee's five-year-old sister, Rickitia Canady, with her. Debra did not know where Latitia had gone, and she

Page 648

could not care for the children herself. The children's fathers, Jim Scott and Tyrone Canady respectively, were incarcerated, as was Latitia. The girls' case was placed into the County's "Emergency Response" program, "triaged," and assigned to CSW Donald Walker, one of the original defendants in this action, for response within three days. 8

The next day, February 24, 1987, the County received a call from Bullock, saying Rickitia and Jimmee were now with her. On February 25, within the [27 Cal.App.4th 137] assigned three-day response time, Walker met with Bullock and the girls in Bullock's home. Given the choice of whether to have Jimmee and Rickitia declared dependent children of the juvenile court, Bullock said she wished the Court to take jurisdiction of the girls.

Subsequently, Walker located the girls' mother, Latitia, in jail. Latitia expressed concern about the children's placement with Bullock, stating Bullock was only interested in obtaining money for the minors. Still, she agreed the children could be placed with Bullock until she was released from jail.

On March 2, 1987, a hearing was held on the issue of whether Jimmee and Rickitia should be detained or released to Bullock or another relative. At the conclusion of the hearing, the case was transferred from the Emergency Response Program to Family Reunification. At a further hearing on March 9, the court signed a detention release order placing the children with Bullock under DCS supervision.

Walker, who continued to supervise Jimmee's placement, visited Jimmee and Rickitia on a monthly basis on March 26, April 28, May 20, and June 10, 1987. For two weeks, beginning May 26, Walker was on vacation. During his absence, Jimmee's aunt, Carla Heywood, telephoned DCS and advised a supervisor that she believed Bullock was using excessive discipline with the children, including leaving Jimmee on the toilet for three hours at a time and refusing to give her breakfast until 4 in the afternoon. This call was registered in the childrens' case log, and Heywood was assured that the matter would be investigated. Also recorded in the log was a complaint from Latitia that Bullock was mistreating the children.

Walker made an unannounced visit to Bullock's home on June 10, at which time he inquired about Bullock's discipline of the children. Bullock denied she used undue punishment. Nevertheless, Walker referred Bullock and the children to Dr. Clara Johnson for counseling and memorialized the referral in the case log.

After June 10, 1987, Jimmee's case was transferred to Maxwell. Maxwell testified at trial that she did not review the file and did not become aware of Heywood's allegations of excessive discipline.

[27 Cal.App.4th 138] Dr. Johnson, to whom Walker referred Bullock and the children for counselling, was never made aware by DCS of the reason for the referral. Instead, Dr. Johnson was told by Bullock that the girls were referred for counselling because Jimmee was "acting out sexually" and needed to be evaluated for signs of sexual molestation. After interviewing the girls, Johnson found no indication of sexual abuse, and having no basis for investigating any other problems, determined the children were in a stable placement and in no danger. She so advised Maxwell on approximately August 18, 1987.

Maxwell's case log did not indicate any visits with Jimmee and Rickitia in Bullock's home before December 24, 1987, although she prepared a report for a judicial review of the children's status on November 24, 1987. Thereafter, Maxwell's entries in the log indicate face-to-face visits on January 13, February 22 and April 10. However, a handwriting expert testified that those entries appeared

Page 649

to have been made after June of 1988. Maxwell herself admitted she made the entries "possibly [in] June" of 1988.

Maxwell testified she did not visit Jimmee monthly, as required by the regulation 30-342 of the DSS Manual, because she had determined the placement was stable and did not require such intense supervision. However, under regulation 30-342, she was not authorized to make this determination without written authorization from her supervisor. No written authorization for a reduced schedule of face-to-face contacts appears in the service log.

In May of 1988, DCS received telephone calls from Carla Heywood expressing concern about Bullock's treatment of the...

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88 practice notes
  • Hernandez v. City of Napa, No. C–09–02782 EDL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 21, 2011
    ...if, in a given case, the employee did not render a considered decision. [Citations].”); see also Scott v. County of Los Angeles, 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 142, 32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643 (1994). Here, Officer Bender's arrest of Plaintiff does not rise to the level of a deliberate and considered policy de......
  • Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc., B232315
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    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 27, 2013
    ...permitted to consider the relative culpability of the parties in assessing comparative fault. ( Scott v. County of Los Angeles (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 148, 32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643.) Accordingly, the jury could properly adjust its determinations of comparative fault to reflect Pfeifer's period......
  • S.F. Human Servs. Agency v. Felicia C. (In re M.C.), No. A129528.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 29, 2011
    ...branch, subject to supervision by [DSS]. (§§ 202.5, 10000, 10051, 10800, 16500, 16500.1, 16501; Scott v. County of Los Angeles (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 143–144 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643]; [Danielle W.] , supra, 207 Cal.App.3d at pp. 1235–1236, fn. 6 [255 Cal.Rptr. 344].)The juvenile court maint......
  • San Mateo Union High Sch. Dist. v. Cnty. of San Mateo, A134543
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 31, 2013
    ...768]; Davila v. County of Los Angeles (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 137, 140 [57 Cal.Rptr.2d 651]; Scott v. County of Los Angeles (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 141 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643].) Plaintiff does not claim failure to invest, but rather imprudent investment acts. (Ortega, supra, 161 Cal.App.4th 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
87 cases
  • Hernandez v. City of Napa, No. C–09–02782 EDL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 21, 2011
    ...if, in a given case, the employee did not render a considered decision. [Citations].”); see also Scott v. County of Los Angeles, 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 142, 32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643 (1994). Here, Officer Bender's arrest of Plaintiff does not rise to the level of a deliberate and considered policy de......
  • Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc., B232315
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 27, 2013
    ...permitted to consider the relative culpability of the parties in assessing comparative fault. ( Scott v. County of Los Angeles (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 148, 32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643.) Accordingly, the jury could properly adjust its determinations of comparative fault to reflect Pfeifer's period......
  • S.F. Human Servs. Agency v. Felicia C. (In re M.C.), No. A129528.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 29, 2011
    ...branch, subject to supervision by [DSS]. (§§ 202.5, 10000, 10051, 10800, 16500, 16500.1, 16501; Scott v. County of Los Angeles (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 143–144 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643]; [Danielle W.] , supra, 207 Cal.App.3d at pp. 1235–1236, fn. 6 [255 Cal.Rptr. 344].)The juvenile court maint......
  • San Mateo Union High Sch. Dist. v. Cnty. of San Mateo, A134543
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 31, 2013
    ...768]; Davila v. County of Los Angeles (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 137, 140 [57 Cal.Rptr.2d 651]; Scott v. County of Los Angeles (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 141 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d 643].) Plaintiff does not claim failure to invest, but rather imprudent investment acts. (Ortega, supra, 161 Cal.App.4th 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 provisions
  • Chapter 847, AB 1151 – Foster care.
    • United States
    • California Session Laws
    • January 1, 2003
    ...(2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 627, as established by the decision of the California Court of Appeal in Scott v. County of Los Angeles (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 125. Furthermore, nothing in this section intended to increase or decrease the liability of the state as it existed prior to the Terrell R. ca......

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