By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Feb 21, 2017

Attorney John Hopkins suggests that an adoption agency misrepresented and “cherry picked” a father’s alleged sexual assault in an effort to paint the couple in the worst light possible and argues that the agency’s motion to dismiss is “so meritless that the court should entertain sanctions.”

Adoption agency Family Choices, NFPC, filed a motion to dismiss a couple’s second amended complaint alleging a failed adoption resulted from Collinsville attorney Deborah Crouse-Cobb’s failure to disclose a conflict of interest in the adoption case.

Crouse-Cobb is adoption agent Susan Wolk’s sister, who worked on the adoption case at issue.

Family Choices filed its motion on Jan. 13 through attorney Raylene DeWitte Grischow of Hinshaw & Cubertson LLp in Springfield.

The defendant argues that both counts of the complaint “are so poorly pled” and that the theories the plainitffs “attempt to plead are unclear at best.”

The defendant also argues that the complaint fails to allege a legal theory that Family Choices violated to cause harm or damage to the plaintiffs, fails to allege any breach of the contract and fails to allege any breach of duty, any tort, malpractice or theory upon which relief can be granted.

“Plaintiffs jump to the conclusion that the wrongful conduct of Susan Wolk harmed them but fails to outline what exactly it is that Family Choices did wrong,” the motion states.

Plaintiffs Greg and Janet Warren responded to the motion to dismiss on Feb. 13 through Hopkins of Alton, arguing that the motion was conveniently filed five minutes before the courthouse closed on Friday before a federal holiday weekend and “is anything but focused and clear.”

“That Plaintiff respectfully states to the Court that their Amended Complaint is extraordinarily clear as to the allegations against the Defendant,” the response states. “Defendant’s wholly unsupported allegation of a failure to ‘allege sufficient facts to state a cause of action’ is without merit. It is so meritless that the court should entertain sanctions against the Defendant for such an inappropriate response.”

Calling the defendant’s theories “worthless,” Hopkins wrote that the Warrens had two separate and distinct theories of liability against Family Choices: liability as a direct result of Wolk’s actions and liability on the basis of institutional negligence stemming from the failure of controls exercised by Joyce Crouse, president of Family Choices and Wolk’s mother.

Hopkins also wrote that the defendant’s request for immunity for Wolk’s statements during the Nov. 22, 2013, adoption hearing “rests on a foundation of sand, capable of being destroyed with minimum effort.”

“That Defendant seeks the status of absolute privilege for the statements of Susan Wolk, admitting in the argument that statements may well have been made with direct malice toward the Plaintiffs. Such an obvious stretch cannot and should not be allowed by this Court,” Hopkins wrote.

He adds that the defendant is attempting to cloak Wolk’s testimony in immunity after she allegedly testified falsely and breached her duty on behalf of her employer.

“That to suggest a witness would be in some way inhibited from testimony should the privilege be denied is a ludicrous statement,” the response states. “Susan Wolk desired to testify before the Court and desired to harm the Plaintiff with premediated malice. Her false testimony wrongly influenced Judge Rice and should not be excused or enabled by this Court by dismissing Plaintiff’s Complaint.”

Hopkins also argues that Family Choices undertook a duty with respect to the plaintiffs when they entered into a contract at the request of former co-defendant Crouse-Cobb.

Circuit Judge William Mudge filed an order for the production of documents and in-camera inspection on Dec. 1, demanding the Department of Children and Family Services produce records of Gregory Warren concerning his daughter Stephanie Warren. The records are protected by a March 23 protective order and a Feb 22 HIPPA protective order and non-waiver order.

The plaintiffs filed a response on Jan. 25, arguing that problems developed since the order was entered concerning whether the records are whole and complete.

“That the plaintiffs’ position in this matter has always been and continues to be that unless the entirety of the record is produced, none of the record should be submitted for discovery,” Hopkins wrote.

Hopkins also notes that the defendant’s counsel sent a correspondence to the court on Dec. 9 directing Mudge on what to look for during his in camera inspection of the DCFS records.

The correspondence provides details of Greg Warren’s alleged sexual molestation of his daughter.

It continues by explaining that a home study was not written in the underlying adoption because Wolk learned that Greg Warren had a 50-year “hit” on his record with DCFS concerning the alleged child abuse incident with his daughter.

However, Hopkins points out that the alleged mark on Greg Warren's record was not mentioned during the November 2013 adoption hearing, making it inapplicable in this case.

“If indeed Mr. Warren had such a mark on his record, it was something that was well known to the Defendant Family Choices, NFPC, or at least should have been known, based upon their position of dealing with DCFS on a regular basis. The fact that this was NOT brought out during the initial discussions with the Warrens and the Defendants indicates this is something that was irrelevant in the thinking on the part of the Defendants,” Hopkins wrote. “If indeed it was something of substance, it should have been brought out at that time.”

Hopkins also argues that the defendant's correspondence is misleading, calling Wolk's testimony "reckless renegade actions."

“Counsel cherry picks through the deposition of the parties attempting to – as did her client Susan Wolk – to paint the parties in the worst possible light before the Court,” Hopkins wrote.

In their complaint, the Warrens claim they entered into a contractual relationship with attorney Crouse-Cobb of Crouse-Cobb & Bays in November 2013, to provide legal services related to the adoption of Jude Warren, the couple’s nephew.

However, they claim Crouse-Cobb failed to disclose her relationship with Family Choices.

The Warrens allege Crouse-Cobb prepared a surrender document for the signature of the natural parents, but the document improperly designated Family Choices as the recipient of the child.

Crouse-Cobb also allegedly told the plaintiffs that it was necessary to appoint an agency to investigate the adoption of the child, but state statute has no such requirement if the child is related to the adopters, the Warrens claim in their August 2015 suit.

The Warrens further argue that the case was delayed for more than 12 months, which rendered the parental surrenders irreversible and caused the child to be placed with Family Choices. The adoption petition was ultimately dismissed.

The Warrens settled their case with Crouse-Cobb on Dec. 1.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1518

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