A non-profit organization overseeing supervised parental visits denies liability in a case alleging a minor child was sexually assaulted by her mother in the bathroom.
The child’s father, identified as John Doe, filed the lawsuit on Dec. 23 against Children First Foundation.
In his complaint, he claims the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services conducted an investigation on his daughter’s mother based on reports of sexual abuse. Following the inquiry, the Madison County Circuit Court ordered that staff members of the Madison County Kids’ Corner supervise all visits between the girl and her mother, identified as E.W., the suit states.
Children’s First Foundation accompanied Doe’s daughter on a supervised visit with her mother on Aug. 10. During the visit, E.W. took her daughter to the bathroom, even though the girl had been using the restroom by herself for years and did not require assistance, the suit states. Doe alleges the defendant’s staff did not accompany the two to the restroom.
“While E.W. and Little Girl Doe were together but otherwise alone in the bathroom without CFF supervision, E.W. touched Little Girl Doe’s vagina and told her ‘not to tell anyone,’” the suit states.
Doe seeks compensatory damages of no less than $100,000, plus costs.
Children First Foundation denied the allegations against it in its April 21 answer.
The defendant argues that if the plaintiffs prove that E.W. sexually abused the child, the acts were unforeseeable and were the sole cause of any alleged damages.
“No alleged act or omission of the defendant caused or contributed to cause the damages and injuries alleged to have been sustained by the plaintiffs in this case,” the answer states.
Children First Foundation also filed a motion to dismiss Count II of the complaint, which alleges a res ipsa claim that the defendant’s staff allowed the mother to take the girl into a bathroom unaccompanied.
The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur “permits a trier of fact to infer negligence when the precise cause of the injury is not known by the plaintiff,” the motion states. “Thus, it is a tool for pleading negligence which, when it is applicable, eliminates the need to prove how the incident occurred.”
The defendant argues that res ipsa is inapplicable here because the plaintiff knows what happened and the defendant did not have exclusive control over the mother’s actions.
Additionally, Children First Foundation argues that the plaintiff’s mother was entitled to accompany the child to the bathroom and that it was not provided any documentation showing that the mother should be prohibited from performing this function.
“Thus, plaintiff is necessarily contending that her sexual abuse is something that would not occur unless the defendant left her alone with her mother. Yet, even had the defendant sent 10 staff members into the bathroom with mother and plaintiff, such would not necessarily have prevented mother’s intentional touching of the plaintiff’s vagina,” the motion states.
The parties also filed a sealed document in the case on Feb. 10.
Circuit Judge Robert LeChien scheduled a status conference for June 2 at 9:30 a.m.
Attorneys Bradley A. Winter and Douglas J. Winters, of Sher Corwin Winters in St. Louis, and Robert W. Schmieder II and Mark L. Brown of SL Chapman in St. Louis, represents John Doe.
Thomas A. Carton of Bullaro & Carton in Chicago represents the defendant.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-817