A.W.J. v. Dep't of Children & Families, No. 2D13–4877.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtSLEET
Citation143 So.3d 1109
PartiesIn the Interest of A.W.J., a child. N.J., Appellant, v. Department of Children and Families, and Guardian ad Litem Program, Appellees.
Decision Date01 August 2014
Docket NumberNo. 2D13–4877.

143 So.3d 1109

In the Interest of A.W.J., a child.
N.J., Appellant,
v.
Department of Children and Families, and Guardian ad Litem Program, Appellees.

No. 2D13–4877.

District Court of Appeal of Florida,
Second District.

Aug. 1, 2014.


[143 So.3d 1110]


Timothy M. Beasley, The Beasley Law Firm, P.L., Pinellas Park, for Appellant.

Bernie McCabe, State Attorney, and Leslie M. Layne, Assistant State Attorney, Clearwater, for Appellee Department of Children and Families.


Laura E. Lawson, Statewide Guardian ad Litem, Sanford, for Appellee Guardian ad Litem Program.

SLEET, Judge.

N.J., the father, appeals an order finding that the State proved by a preponderance of the evidence that he abused his son, A.W.J., and adjudicating A.W.J. dependent. He argues on appeal that the trial court erred in adjudicating A.W.J. dependent because the State failed to meet its evidentiary burden. We agree and reverse.

According to the father's testimony, he placed six-month-old A.W.J. in a Bumbo chair on the floor and went to the kitchen to retrieve a bottle. While the father was in the kitchen, A.W.J. pushed the chair over backwards and hit his head on the exposed concrete floor. The father contacted the mother, who came home from work with the car seat base, and the couple drove A.W.J. to Trinity Medical Center. Trinity doctors determined that A.W.J. sustained a skull fracture extending

[143 So.3d 1111]

across his occipital and parietal bones. A.W.J. received further treatment for his injuries at All Children's Hospital. A.W.J. has since made a full recovery; he suffered no permanent damage as a result of the accident.

At the evidentiary hearing, Detective Grady, who conducted the routine investigation for Pasco County major crimes division, testified that he was not suspicious of the parents' version of events and that as part of his investigation he independently confirmed online that the Bumbo chair can be unreasonably unstable. Similarly, Detective Gulati, who initially interviewed the parents at the hospital, testified that the parents' story was consistent with his observations at their home.

Doctor Charlene Weber, A.W.J.'s pediatrician, testified that she reviewed the reports generated at both Trinity and All Children's hospitals. She explained that the report of each physician who examined A.W.J. at the Trinity emergency room made reference to a palpable bruise on the back of his head. She testified that at six months, A.W.J. was large for his age, that he had a larger-than-average head circumference and weight, and that his motor skills were a little developmentally delayed. She was certain that based on A.W.J.'s development and physical characteristics, it was “possible and plausible” that he was injured in the manner described by the parents. She testified that she did not see any inconsistencies in the parents' accounts of the accident and that the medical reports from...

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2 practice notes
  • Mace v. M&T Bank, Case No. 2D16-3381
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 25, 2020
    ...evidence is generally understood to be equivalent to competent substantial evidence. See, e.g., N.J. v. Dep't of Children & Families, 143 So. 3d 1109, 1112 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014) ("Competent substantial evidence is tantamount to legally sufficient evidence." (quoting S.T. v. Dep't of Children &......
  • Garcia v. State, No. 2D13–805.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 1, 2014
    ...was the identity of the defendant as the perpetrator). In Mr. Garcia's case, with the correct jury instruction, his attorney could have [143 So.3d 1109]disputed this issue in light of the evidence at trial. In this context, we conclude that the test for whether the issue was in dispute and ......
2 cases
  • Mace v. M&T Bank, Case No. 2D16-3381
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 25, 2020
    ...evidence is generally understood to be equivalent to competent substantial evidence. See, e.g., N.J. v. Dep't of Children & Families, 143 So. 3d 1109, 1112 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014) ("Competent substantial evidence is tantamount to legally sufficient evidence." (quoting S.T. v. Dep't of Children &......
  • Garcia v. State, No. 2D13–805.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 1, 2014
    ...was the identity of the defendant as the perpetrator). In Mr. Garcia's case, with the correct jury instruction, his attorney could have [143 So.3d 1109]disputed this issue in light of the evidence at trial. In this context, we conclude that the test for whether the issue was in dispute and ......

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