Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Suit alleging botched adoption settled

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jan 3, 2018

Adoption agency Family Choices, NFPC, reached a settlement with a couple alleging a Collinsville attorney’s undisclosed conflict of interest resulted in a botched adoption.

Plaintiffs Greg and Janet Warren and Family Choices filed a stipulation for dismissal on Dec. 14, stating that they have reached a “satisfactory settlement.”

Upon payment of the agreed settlement, all claims were dismissed with prejudice on Dec. 18 by Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge.

The Warrens are represented by John Hopkins of Gori Julian & Associates in Alton.

Family Choices is represented by Raylene De Witte Grishchow of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Springfield.

Collinsville attorney Deborah Crouse-Cobb was also named a defendant in the suit and reached a settlement with the Jersey County couple in December 2016.

The Warrens claim they entered into a contractual relationship with Crouse-Cobb of Crouse-Cobb & Bays on Nov. 22, 2015, to provide legal services related to the adoption of Jude Warren, a child.

However, they claim Crouse-Cobb failed to disclose her relationship with Family Choices. She is adoption agent Susan Wolk’s sister, who worked on the adoption case at issue, according to the suit.

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.

Family Choices previously filed a motion to dismiss and sought summary judgment.

The defendant argued that the plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action and no duty was owed by Family Choices.

The defendant also argued that it did not proximately cause any injuries to the plaintiffs.

As for summary judgment, Family Choices argued that when St. Clair County associate judge Stephen Rice made the decision to deny the adoption, the court was aware of the chances of Greg Warren’s repeated substance abuse and sexual abuse.

“The Court held that ‘no agency’ would approve the adoption and that it would not approve the adoption without any agency approval,” the motion stated.

In their response, the plaintiffs called the motion for summary judgment “grossly premature” as several deposition testimonies were requested.

They also argued that the court’s adoption decision cannot be submitted as part of the defendant’s motion until the plaintiff has had an opportunity to question and cross-examine the witness.

“This is so fundamental that Defendant’s counsel should not have to be told about such matters,” the response stated.

The plaintiffs also addressed “a final and perhaps collateral note” regarding Rice’s “problematic” testimony.

“Essentially Judge Rice testified in the ARDC hearing that he was subject to an ex-parte negotiations with attorney, Lori Mott. Specifically, Lori Mott, without the presence of Plaintiff’s counsel, advised the Court that the Warren’s petition for adoption should be denied.

“Clearly this activity of Judge Rice as ex-parte communications in a contested matter are beyond the scope of proper judicial conduct,” the response stated.

The plaintiffs argued that there is a “clear duty to report such misconduct which now has apparently come to the forefront, due to the self-serving activities of defendant and their counsel.

“The Court is in a very delicate situation, having to judge the conduct of a fellow member of the judiciary.

“This dilemma has been brought forth unnecessarily by the Defendant, and the Court should simply pass on this matter, declaring Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment denied,” the response stated.

The motions were taken under advisement in October.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1518

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Organizations in this Story

Crouse, Cobb & Bays Madison County Circuit Court St. Clair County Circuit Court