BH v. County of San Bernardino

62 Cal. 4th 168 (2015)

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BH v. County of San Bernardino

California Supreme Court
62 Cal. 4th 168 (2015)

  • Written by Haley Gintis, JD

Facts

In September 2008, Sheriff Kimberly Swanson (defendant) received a call from Christy Kinney. Kinney reported that two-year-old BH (plaintiff) had been abused by his father, Louis Sharples. Kinney was helping BH’s mother, Lauri H., raise BH. Swanson arrived at Kinney’s home to investigate the matter and examine BH. Swanson observed cuts and bruising above his eye and bruises on his arm and back. Swanson later spoke to Sharples, who claimed that BH had fallen. Swanson believed that the report was motivated by the custody dispute between Lauri H. and Sharples and submitted a report detailing the brief investigation to her supervisor (defendant). A few months later, BH was rushed to the hospital during a visit with Sharples. BH was unconscious, seizing, and suffering from severe head trauma. A forensic pediatrician determined that BH’s head trauma was the result of child abuse, specifically shaken baby syndrome. Following BH’s injuries, Lauri H. filed a claim on behalf of BH against San Bernardino, Swanson, and her supervisor (defendants), claiming that they had breached their mandatory duty to report or cross-report incidents of suspected child abuse and had acted negligently. The officers motioned for summary judgment, claiming that they had not breached a mandatory duty and that they were entitled to governmental immunities. The trial court granted the motion on the ground that Swanson had used her discretion not to cross-report the incident and was immune from liability. The matter was appealed. The court of appeals affirmed. The California Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Chin, J.)

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