The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court in this Child Victims Act lawsuit, determined the causes of action alleging the defendant school district failed to report the abuse of plaintiff-student by a teacher (Bova) pursuant to the Social Services Law should have been dismissed:
Social Services Law § 413, which went into effect on September 1, 1973, provides that certain school officials “are required to report or cause a report to be made in accordance with this title when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is an abused or maltreated child” … . Social Services Law § 420(2) provides that “[a]ny person, official or institution required by this title to report a case of suspected child abuse or maltreatment who knowingly and willfully fails to do so shall be civilly liable for the damages proximately caused by such failure.” For purposes of Social Services Law § 413, an “abused child” means “a child under eighteen years of age and who is defined as an abused child by the family court act” … . Family Court Act § 1012(e) defines an “abused child” as one harmed by a “parent or other person legally responsible for his [or her] care.” … .
… Supreme Court should have granted that branch of the District’s motion which was to dismiss the ninth cause of action, alleging that it failed to report suspected child abuse committed by Bova, because Bova was not a “person legally responsible” for the plaintiff’s care … . The court also should have granted that branch of the District’s motion which was to dismiss the tenth cause of action, alleging that it failed to report suspected child abuse committed by the plaintiff’s stepfather, insofar as asserted against it. The complaint does not contain any allegation that the District received information about abuse committed by the plaintiff’s stepfather at any time after the end of the 1972-1973 school year in June 1973, which was months prior to September 1, 1973, the date that Social Services Law § 413 went into effect … . Finally, …punitive damages are not available against the District … . Hanson v Hicksville Union Free Sch. Dist., 2022 NY Slip Op 05519, Second Dept 10-5-22
Practice Point: In this Child Victims Act suit against defendant school district alleging abuse of plaintiff-student by a teacher and her stepfather in the 1970’s, the Social Services Law causes of action alleging the district failed to report the abuse were dismissed because: (1) the teacher was not legally responsible for plaintiff’s care; and (2) the Social Services Law requiring the school to report abuse by the stepfather was not in effect at the time.