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Case Name Henry A. v. Willden CW-NV-0001
Docket / Court 2:10-cv-00528 ( D. Nev. )
State/Territory Nevada
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization National Center for Youth Law
Case Summary
On April 13, 2010, a group of children in foster care in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. The plaintiffs sued the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, Clark County, ... read more >
On April 13, 2010, a group of children in foster care in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. The plaintiffs sued the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, Clark County, and lark County Department of Family Services under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. (Previously, NCYL had filed a similar suit on behalf of another group of children, Clark K. v. Willden, in August 2006, but voluntarily dismissed it after the judge decided against certification of the class and all the plaintiffs had either aged out of the system or been adopted. That case can be found at CW-NV-0002 in this Clearinghouse.)

Back in this case, the plaintiffs alleged that County and State officials failed to protect the health and safety of children in foster care. According to the complaint, foster children in the county were denied stability, health care, and, in many cases, even the most minimal level of safety. Many children were taken from their homes only to be subjected to physical, sexual, or psychological abuse while in the county's custody. For example, child welfare officials placed an infant and her older brother in a foster home where the baby was locked in a closet, and her brother was beaten when he tried to help her. Another plaintiff was shuttled through 40 placements in the 15 years she was in foster care. Another child was hospitalized twice in the ICU for near organ failure after being given an overdose of psychotropic drugs.

The plaintiffs sought money damages for thirteen children named in the lawsuit, and systematic improvements for several classes of children that represent more than half of the 3,600 children in foster care in the county. The suit also sought improvements for children who had not had guardians ad litem appointed to represent them in court, children who had not been provided early intervention services, and children who were sent to foster parents without case plans that contain the information needed to properly care for them.

In May 2010, the defendants moved to dismiss this case for failure to state a claim. After extensive hearings and related motions, on Oct. 26, 2010, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones dismissed the action, holding that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the plaintiffs failed to assert a clearly established constitutional right. 2010 WL 4362809 (D. Nev. Oct. 26, 2010). The plaintiffs, however, then appealed. On May 4, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, ruling that foster children have a clearly established constitutional right to safety and adequate medical care. 678 F.3d 991 (9th Cir. 2012) (Fletcher, J.).

On remand, the district court ordered the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint and the defendants to respond. On July 20, 2012, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, and in August 2012, the defendants moved to dismiss. Because of the delay that caused by the appeal, however, the plaintiffs had aged out of foster care, moved home with their families, or had been adopted. As a result of the plaintiffs exiting foster care, the district court on remand ruled on February 27, 2013 that only relief in the form of money damages would be available to them, except for the two plaintiffs that remained in the foster care system. 2013 WL 759479 (D. Nev. Feb. 27, 2013). Later, on January 10, 2014, the court further ruled that the two remaining plaintiffs also lacked standing to seek injunctive relief unless the plaintiffs filed a more definite statement supporting their claims as to the nature of the children's case plan deficiencies under 45 C.F.R. § 1356.21(g). 2014 WL 117562 (D. Nev. Jan. 10, 2014).

In the spring of 2014, in the midst of trial preparation and shortly after the plaintiffs served their expert witness reports, the parties entered into settlement talks. The talks resulted in a settlement agreement of $2.075 million dollars in damages, approved on November 18, 2014 and entered on January 9, 2015. About $1.6 million directly benefited the seven former foster children, while $500,000 covered attorney fees and costs for the plaintiffs’ attorneys. On November 12, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a stipulation to close the case, and the district court granted the stipulation on November 16, 2015, closing the case.

Soojin Cha - 07/19/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Disability
Hearing impairment
General
Foster care (benefits, training)
Neglect by staff
Suicide prevention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Nevada Clark County
Nevada Department of Health and Human Services
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs were a group of foster children, foster parents, relatives, and advocates.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations National Center for Youth Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2015 - n/a
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Making Child Welfare Work: How the R.C. Lawsuit Forged New Partnerships to Protect Children and Sustain Families
By: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Bazelon Center)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:10-cv-00528-RCJ-PAL (D. Nev.) 11/16/2015
CW-NV-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 04/13/2010
CW-NV-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 10/26/2010 (2010 WL 4362809 / 2010 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 115006) (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Reversing in Part, Affirming in Part, and Remanding] 05/04/2012 (678 F.3d 991)
CW-NV-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint 07/20/2012
CW-NV-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting in Part and Denying in Part Motion to Dismiss] 02/27/2013 (2013 WL 759479 / 2013 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 145468) (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Debbie Mallwitz's First Amended Third-Party Complaint Against Deborah Hill and Joseph Hill 11/21/2013
CW-NV-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting in Part and Denying in Part Motion to Dismiss] 01/10/2014 (2014 WL 117562 / 2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 4469) (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting in Part Motion to Dismiss] 05/07/2014 (2014 WL 1809634 / 2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 63129) (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Approving Compromise Settlement and Distribution 01/09/2015 (2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 8159) (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0012.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and [Proposed] Order to Dismiss All Claims of Leo C., Victor., and Linda E. with Prejudice 01/22/2015 (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Petition and Memorandum in Support of Petition for Approval of Plaintiffs' Negotiated Attorneys' Fees andCosts 01/22/2015 (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and [Proposed] Order to Dismiss All Claims of Henry A., Charles B., Charlotte B., and Mason L With Prejudice 07/21/2015 (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Fletcher, Betty Binns (Ninth Circuit)
CW-NV-0001-0003
Hug, Procter Ralph Jr. (Ninth Circuit)
CW-NV-0001-0003
Jones, Robert Clive (D. Nev.)
CW-NV-0001-0001 | CW-NV-0001-0005 | CW-NV-0001-0007 | CW-NV-0001-0008 | CW-NV-0001-0009 | CW-NV-0001-0010 | CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-0012 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Leen, Peggy A. (D. Nev.) [Magistrate]
CW-NV-0001-9000
Paez, Richard A. (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit)
CW-NV-0001-0003
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alverson, J. Bruce (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0011
Danis, Mark Wilmot (California)
CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Davis, Sarah Nicole (California)
CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Fernandez, Dorothy L. (California)
CW-NV-0001-0004 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Grimm, William L. (California)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-0004 | CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Hansbury, Mary F. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Kaiser, Aurora V. (California)
CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Liotta, Erin (California)
CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Londen, Jack W. (California)
CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Martyna, Bryn (California)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-9000
McElhinny, Harold J. (California)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Ortiz, Dinah Ximena (California)
CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Reed, Daniel J. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Roberts, Camille (California)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Rosenberg, Jeffrey (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-0004 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Schechter, Lori A. (California)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Schulman, Gregory (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-9000
VanVoorhis, Kimberly Nicole (California)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Welch, Leecia (California)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Wilson, Karie N. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0009 | CW-NV-0001-0010 | CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Wolfenzon, Bruno (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0002 | CW-NV-0001-0004 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Anderson, Linda C. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Blum, Jonathan D. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0006 | CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Foley, Margaret G. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0009 | CW-NV-0001-0010 | CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Heuvel, Tim J. (California)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Lefebvre, Alan (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-0006 | CW-NV-0001-0009 | CW-NV-0001-0010 | CW-NV-0001-0011 | CW-NV-0001-9000
Nelson, Kathryn J. (Washington)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Stryker, Erik K. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Sturman, Gloria J. (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Witty, Cayla (Nevada)
CW-NV-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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