DeShaney (plaintiff) was a young boy who was severely beaten and permanently injured by his father, with whom he lived. The Winnebago County Department of Social Services (defendant) received complaints that DeShaney was being abused by his father. After a lengthy period of observation in which visits were made to DeShaney’s home and he was hospitalized for mysterious injuries, Winnebago had reason to believe DeShaney was being abused, but nonetheless did not act to remove him from his father’s custody. DeShaney sued Winnebago County under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in federal district court claiming that Winnebago’s failure to act deprived him of his liberty in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to Winnebago, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.