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California: City Not Liable for Police Officer’s Sexual Assaults on Minor

In January, 2013, the California Court of Appeal held that a statute providing that a “mandated reporter” reporting suspected child abuse to specified agencies cannot be constitutionally construed to require a mandated reporter to report his or her own acts of child abuse. Such a construction, the Court held, would run afoul of the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination.

After Kassey S. was sexually assaulted by Turlock police officer Jorge Cruz, she sued the City of Turlock, alleging that the city was vicariously liable for Cruz’s breach of his mandatory duty, pursuant to Penal Code section 11166, subd. (a), to report the sexual abuse to a child protective agency. The trial court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that (1) the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act did not impose a “mandatory duty” on a mandated reporter to report his or her own acts of child abuse, since such a requirement would constitute a forfeiture of the mandated reporter’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and hence would render the statute unconstitutional; and (2) the alleged molestations took place outside the scope of Cruz’s employment. Accordingly, the trial court held, the City could not be directly or vicariously liable for Cruz’s actions.

The Court of Appeal had little difficulty in affirming the trial court’s ruling. See: Kassey S. v. City of Turlock, 212 Cal. App. 4th 1276 (Cal Ct. App. 5th Dist. 2013).

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Related legal case

Kassey S. v. City of Turlock