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Robert F. Elliott, Robert G. Vizza and Sam Baharvar Achieve Important Dismissal of Civil Rights and Misdiagnosis Suit On Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Immunity

May 13, 2021

Robert F. Elliott, Robert G. Vizza and Sam Baharvar of Bartlett LLP achieved an important dismissal of a civil rights and misdiagnosis suit regarding an underlying case of alleged child sexual abuse. A couple had brought their infant to the Emergency Department with an injury that, on its face, invoked suspicions of sexual abuse. This triggered the laws regarding Mandated Reporters. Our client’s hospital staff fulfilled their legal and ethical duties to their patient – the infant – and reported the suspected child abuse or neglect to social services officials. The underlying matter resulted in investigations and the father’s plea in Family Court to a finding of child neglect. The family then commenced this federal civil rights and misdiagnosis suit alleging malicious prosecution, with buzz words in the complaint intended to get past the statutory immunity for mandated reporters. Bartlett filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss based on the immunity afforded to Mandated Reporters for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect under Social Services Law § 419. We also argued that the federal court cannot revisit a finding by a state judge and that the healthcare providers in a private hospital cannot be considered state actors liable for civil rights violations. The U.S. District Court Judge’s decision noted that “allowing this matter to continue would constitute a fundamental injustice” and that “charging (the medical defendants) with malice and conspiracy based upon a complete absence of factual allegations, is simply intolerable.”

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